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Firefighting fury

PUBLISHED: 17:40 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 09:46 23 August 2010

UNDER THREAT: The height vehicle.

UNDER THREAT: The height vehicle.

FIRE union bosses have slammed a decision to remove a specialist height vehicle from a fire station. Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority have agreed plans to move a £400,000 height vehicle from Thameside fire station, Coldharbour Road, Northfleet,

FIRE union bosses have slammed a decision to remove a specialist height vehicle from a fire station.

Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority have agreed plans to move a £400,000 height vehicle from Thameside fire station, Coldharbour Road, Northfleet, to Medway.

In February, after public consultation, it was first decided that the number of height vehicles in Kent would be cut from seven to five, and the vehicle based at Thameside would be moved.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) raised serious concerns about the decision and the authority re-examined the proposal but it was again given the go ahead at the meeting last Wednesday.

Ian Young, chair of the Kent FBU said: "We have always opposed this. We have never thought it was a situation that will work and we want the height vehicle to remain at Gravesend.

"They say that the positions of the height vehicles will mean they will be able to reach any part of the county within 30 minutes but we believe that time lag is failing.

"Already a height vehicle took more than an hour to get to a job in Margate.

"In terms of putting lives at risk, it is certainly not going to help matters. This important vehicle needs to be in all parts of the county, including north Kent, for rescuing members of the public and for the safety of the fire-fighters themselves.

"We are going to keep on highlighting to the fire authority that it is not a system that is going to work."

As well as Medway, the fire vehicles will be moved to Thanet, Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury and Ashford.

Leslie Christie, leader of the Labour Group on the Fire and Rescue Authority said: "With the lives of people in Kent at risk you have to get these decisions right.

"These vehicles are part of the life-saving equipment needed on occasions as well as providing a secure height base for fighting fires.

Chairman of Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority, Bryan Cope, said; "At present, Kent has more height vehicles than either Essex or Hampshire, to cover slightly fewer residents and a similar area.

"Height vehicles are used primarily for fire fighting and special services and very rarely for rescues.

"Final research indicates that these strategic positions will provide effective coverage across the county.

"These five stations in fact give better coverage than we have at present. In North West Kent we can also call on support from the London Fire Brigade, though this happens rarely."

ed.riley@archant.co.uk

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