Fury over fire cuts

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WIGAN is set to be hit by cuts to its local fire services.

While three of the borough’s four stations will not see any immediate changes to how it operates across the borough, Leigh fire station will reduce its overnight crew from two pumps to one as well as losing one man during the day.

Currently, Wigan and Leigh both operate two crews during the day and night with five men on the first pump and four on the second. Hindley and Atherton both use one pump each.

But the cuts implemented by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue mean that Leigh will lose one of its overnight pumps while also only having four men on each during the day.

Hindley station will actually be boosted by the addition of a small fires unit

The four wheel vehicle will be equipped to deal with smaller fires such as grass and rubbish and will be operated by two to three people.

Wigan is the largest of the region’s 10 boroughs and has less stations than some others.

Borough commander Steve Sheridan insists that despite the cutbacks, it is business as usual for Wigan’s firefighters.

He said: “We have been doing assessments for many years looking at fire calls.

“Because of the position Wigan is in, with the support from neighbouring units, it services around 150,000 people in 11 wards.

“The proposal at the moment is to keep it at two pumps and it is only one of two in the region doing so.”

However, the changes to Leigh are expected to stretch the borough’s appliances.

With reduced staff at night, the new small unit at Hindley will be on hand to assist with its smaller fires, enabling the remaining unit to cope with any bigger incidents.

But Mr Sheridan says that research conducted suggests that every area of the borough will be adequately covered.

The reductions in service come amidst £24m cuts set by central government.

Paul Fogerty, chairman of the Manchester branch of the Fire Brigade Union, insists the whole of the Wigan borough will be badly affected by the cuts.

With almost every station throughout Greater Manchester being hit, it means that bigger incidents elsewhere may need to call on Wigan’s help, restricting the town’s cover.

He also believes the small fire unit is not up to the job and fails to provide enough cover.

“It will have a massive impact,” he said. “The small unit is not strong enough and has just been put together with the equivalent of a garden pressure washer in it.”

The plans are now open to a 12-week public consultation and a plan has been made available for the public to view at www.manchesterfire.gov.uk.