A former firefighter and now councillor has hit out at proposals to cut the number of night-time fire engines in Harrogate to just one.

Independent councillor Sid Hawke – who worked as a retained firefighter for the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in Ripon – said the plans would “put money before lives”.

Harrogate Fire Station currently has two fire engines operating 24 hours a day, but this could be reduced to just one at night under the proposals out to consultation.

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoë Metcalfe is asking residents for their views on the plans as part of county-wide proposals which she said would save over £1.5 million a year – yet she insisted they are not cost-cutting measures.

Councillor Hawke – a member of Harrogate Borough Council and newly-elected mayor of Ripon – said:

“You can’t put money before lives.

“It’s a big town is Harrogate. If there were two shouts at one go, what would the fire station do?

“They could call in support, but that would be from Boroughbridge, Thirsk or anywhere, and somebody could lose their life in that time.”

Councillor Hawke left the fire service around 10 years ago and said it does not receive the financial support it needs to respond to emergencies quickly.

He has called on Ms Metcalfe to scrap the proposals and instead increase the number of fire engines and staff.

Councillor Hawke said:

“I don’t care how much could be saved – there is money in budgets elsewhere to be dug into without putting lives at risk.

“I think we need more firefighters – I really do.”

The proposals are detailed within a document which sets out how the fire service will deploy staff and equipment over the next three years.

The Risk and Resource Model has been drawn up based on “extensive risk assessments” looking at the likelihood and severity of emergencies including fires, road traffic collisions and water related incidents.

The document is out to consultation until 14 August and Ms Metcalfe said it reflected a changing role for the fire service.

Ms Metcalfe – who is also a Harrogate borough councillor – said there is higher demand for services during daytime hours in Harrogate and that fire-related incidents now make up a small proportion of what the fire service does.

She said:

“The role of a fire and rescue service has changed and continues to change, with only 26% of our incidents last year relating to a fire emergency.

“We want to ensure we are addressing our current and future challenges and that we have the capacity to prevent and protect to stop incidents happening in the first place and prevent harm before it can take place, while also having the capacity to respond to emergencies when they do take place.

“We are confident these proposals would do that.”

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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