Appeal for fresh firefighters to save village fire station

Villagers are being urged to come forward to train as on-call firefighters in order to keep their rural fire station open.

Prees Fire Station. Photo: Google StreetView.
Prees Fire Station. Photo: Google StreetView.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service says the fate of the station at Prees is dependant on members of the community stepping up to fill vacancies left as a result of rule changes and retirements.

It is hoped people who now find themselves working from home or whose circumstances have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic could help provide on-call cover.

Councillor Paul Wynn, who represents Prees on Shropshire Council, and is a member of the fire service’s governing body, said he was concerned that the number of firefighters based out of the station had recently dropped from 12 to five.

Speaking at a meeting of the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority’s strategy and resources committee, Councillor Wynn said: “If they lose one more they can’t function.

“What can we do to encourage people into the on-call activity?”

Assistant chief fire officer Simon Hardiman said the issue was being looked into, adding that changes to driving regulations had affected staff who were working as HGV drivers.

He said: “We have got staff numbers that have reduced, for various reasons, over the last 12 to 18 months.”

But he added that Covid-19 had created a “new opportunity”.

Mr Hardiman said: “People that have been travelling into the urban areas to work now may be working from home, which gives us a different recruitment target profile that we can look at in the Prees area.

“We are also looking at how we respond to alerts to incidents. We are looking at turn-in times to stations where we can still achieve our response standard in that area.

“If we widen our turn-in times we reach a whole host of new people.”


Committee chairman Councillor Chris Mellings, who represents Wem on Shropshire Council, said: “The sustainability of the on-call service is an important issue for us. There’s an ongoing project to look at this and it’s not just Prees, there are other areas.

“It’s a shame what’s happened to Prees because historically it has been on of the most reliable of our stations, but obviously it has gone through that period of change where there is a large number of retirements at the same time.

“I share the concerns of Paul, because although the station sits in his division it provides cover in part of my patch as well so it’s encouraging to hear the steps that we are taking.”

Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton said the fire station’s fate was in the community’s hands.

“We have been looking at this for some time now and coming up with a number of options,” said Mr Hammerton.

“Of course that’s an area of the county where overall there is a good level of fire cover.

“That being said, Prees still plays an important role in the network of fire cover in that area.

“This is all about local dialogue. If we want to keep a fire station open there the community needs to want to keep its own fire station open.

“We will come up with solutions and flexible ways of working and these new ways of working, but we need them to be engaged in working in those new ways.

“We will be increasingly trying to have a dialogue with them – it’s their fire station we want to keep open bot for and with them, that’s the key message.

“We rely heavily on the community with these community fire stations and the community will need to raise its game. But perhaps if they don’t know they need to raise their game they are not stepping into the fore.

“It’s a challenging little corner because it’s a relatively isolated community when there are some bigger communities not too far away, but it’s that strategic location for Prees which is important to us.”

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