Union warns public could be put at risk

22nd December 2010'Hemsworth Fire Station.
22nd December 2010'Hemsworth Fire Station.

A firefighters’ union is joining the fight to save Hemsworth and South Elmsall fire stations as it warns public safety may be a risk if they are axed.

Plans to close the two stations and replace them with one station in South Kirkby were announced in September by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority. It said South Elmsall and Hemsworth stations were in “low risk” areas where demand for service has fallen over the past five years. The shake-up would mean a loss of 23 frontline firefighters.

Mark Wilson, secretary of the Fire Brigade Union, said he was extremely concerned about the plans.

He said: “The measure proposed will increase the attendance times for sufficient appliances to be able to deal with incidents such as domestic house fires by a staggering 38 per cent in the Hemsworth area, and an even more worrying 51 per cent in the South Elmsall area.

“Worse still, these figures take no account of proposals by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s proposals to close Royston Fire Station, which provides cover in the Havercroft, Ryhill and South Heindley areas along with Hemsworth.

“The frustrating fact is that to maintain current levels of fire cover, throughout West Yorkshire, would only cost a Band D ratepayer an extra £20 per year.”

The authority faces budget cuts of up to £18m over the next four years and is aiming to save up to £4m a year with the station closures.

A consultation period is now underway/

Stephen Fealy, station commander for Hemsworth and South Elmsall fire stations, said: “We have entered into public consultation to discuss a proposal that still provides an emergency service to the local community. As a metropolitan brigade which is experiencing some challenging times ahead, we are cutting our cloth according to the risk that exists within the community.”

Residents can have their say about the plans at the Hemsworth Town Council Community Centre, Bullenshaw Road, at 7pm on December 2, at the Social centre, Westfield Lane, South Elmsall, at 7pm on December 5, and at The Grove, South Kirkby, at 7pm on December 7.