Shake-up could reduce number of firefighters in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot
THE number of trained firefighters in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot could be reduced.
Fire chiefs are reviewing existing shift patterns to see if efficiencies can be made — but have emphasised frontline services will not be affected and no crew member will be made redundant.
They say they are committed to maintaining 24/7 emergency services but are looking at smarter ways of delivering them.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority has gone out to consultation on its draft annual improvement plan for 2013-14 and making the most efficient use of resources is included.
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Neath Port Talbot county commander Chris Margetts said the service needed to have a minimum of five trained firefighters in each of its five full-time stations in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot at any one time.
"But in order to maintain this we employ 140 trained firefighters because the shift system we've got is designed that way and it was introduced 40 years ago," explained Mr Margetts.
"Each station has four watches of seven crew so we can still have the minimum of five per watch but allowing for leave and training.
"But the reality is that we are nowhere near as busy as we used to be. We want to look at whether there is a way to apply maximum resources when we have our busiest periods and if there's a flexible crewing model that would allow us to do that. We want to look at different models from around the UK and locally to see if there's a better way of doing it."
Mr Margetts emphasised there was no intention to reduce the 24/7 emergency cover or to close any fire station.
"The chief fire officer and the fire authority are committed, wherever possible, to do this without making any redundancies," he added.
"If our trained firefighters want to continue working for us there will be a job for them. But they may have to work different hours."
Mr Margetts said the service also wanted to put more effort and resources into community safety.
"The call rate is down 35 per cent in Neath Port Talbot in the last five years.
"We want to put more resources into that so we can be even more successful. We want to stop incidents occurring in the first place because that is the best way to keep people safe.
"But incidents still occur and when they do we will have the fire engines and the trained crew available to deal with them.
"We are not talking about cutting frontline services but a smarter way of delivering them."
Paramedics work through breaks to answer 999 calls — page 14