Northamptonshire fire response times drop as more appliances available

Stephen Mold with Northamptonshire firefighters.Stephen Mold with Northamptonshire firefighters.
Stephen Mold with Northamptonshire firefighters.
Average response times to fire callouts in Northamptonshire have dropped by about a minute.

The improvement - down from 11 minutes and 15 seconds to just over 10 minutes - comes after Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) improved the number of appliances available after a critical inspection report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services, published in June 2019.

Inspectors found the service’s fire engine availability was regularly under than the minimum number of engines needed to provide fire cover. Availability levels were regularly below 50 per cent of the fleet, or under 14 appliances.

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But since November 2018 this has improved to an average of 18 to 20 appliances and between 7pm and 7am it is often between 20 and 24 appliances. NFRS say this particularly important as the evenings present the greatest risk while everyone is at home cooking or asleep.

Chief fire officer Darren Dovey said: "We have worked very hard to make improvements in our service, creating a bank of daytime staff and changing our approach so that we can respond more flexibly and quickly. Our focus is on providing the best possible service to the people of this county and we are proud to be a service the public can trust to save lives and keep them safe.

“We hope that the inspectorate will see the huge amount of work everyone has done to improve appliance availability and reflect that in their report of the service next time they visit. I am proud how all our staff continue to work together to protect the public, especially our on-call staff, who often provide cover against competing personal pressures. I am continually grateful for their hard work and commitment.

"One year on from the change in governance, we are in a more stable position, able to invest and make the innovations that we want to make. There is still more work to be done but we are now able to plan for our own future and that is clearly bringing progress that embeds us as a strong, resilient fire service."

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Since the report NFRS has introduced new management arrangements and scrutiny to ensure that issues that may effect firefighters' availability are quickly identified and dealt with. There has also been a focus on recruitment and retention.

Twenty new firefighters are due to start training in February 2020 and an extra 12 firefighters have been recruited to support daytime availability. This will increase the strength of NFRS to 254 firefighters, up from 242.

Forty more on-call firefighters have been recruited in 2018 and 2019.

At the same time NFRS is purchasing seven new vehicles - four fire engines, a new aerial appliance and two water rescue vehicles - to replace ageing and outdated equipment. Some of the fire engine fleet is currently more than 18-years-old.

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Northamptonshire police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold, who took over governance of the service in January 2019, said: "Our fire and rescue service has already made tangible strides forward - that is really encouraging and good for the safety of the people in this county.

"I am grateful for the focus that the chief fire officer and his team have brought to improving the service, making the best use of resources and responding flexibly to give the best possible cover. Moving to my office has brought stability and certainty that has allowed NFRS to plan and develop and we are already seeing the results of that.

“I am excited that this puts NFRS in a strong position to innovate and look at ways to benefit from even closer working with Northamptonshire Police to further enhance the service that the public receive. I don’t underestimate the challenges that the staff have faced in making these improvements so quickly, but they have risen to the challenge, and I thank them on behalf of the public.”