Investment and efficiency are on the cards for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) in 2014 as it strives to provide the best service possible for residents.
Reflecting on 2013, Chief Fire Officer Graham Stagg said that, despite being faced with the task of balancing a difficult budget, the Service performed better than ever before.
He said: “This has been achieved by having more efficient staffing and rota systems – from the senior management team through to firefighters and right across support departments – and cutting £4.2 million without any detriment to frontline services.
“We have put in place sufficient savings efficiently to allow a council tax freeze this coming year and to ensure for the next two years we can balance our books without being forced to make cuts to the frontline. By making the required savings early, we have also been able to invest in frontline services, to ensure our firefighters have the very best equipment available in the right place, to do the jobs we expect them to do on a daily basis.”
Graham continued: “This does not mean we stand still in 2014 though, far from it. We will continue to look at the services we provide and see where we can keep on improving and we do this by looking at historical incident data and continuously reviewing where our risks are. Changes will be made – but they won’t be driven by budget - they will be driven by us continually wanting to improve on what we do and having our resources in the right places to provide a better service to the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”
Collaborative work with other fire and rescue services has been key to the successful efficiency of CFRS, and the improving use of technology and working with other organisations is set to continue into 2014.
In 2013, the Service’s performance saw reductions in fires and other emergencies. The Combined Fire Control received just over 9,900 emergency calls for Cambridgeshire (a reduction of 1 per cent on the previous year), resulting in 6,675 incidents for fire crews to attend – a 6 per cent decrease from the previous year.
A significant percentage of incidents CFRS attends has always been to Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) and the vast majority of these are false alarms due to faulty equipment or issues like dust in the sensors. Last year, CFRS changed its policy for attending AFAs to ensure resources were used in the best possible way, which has led to a significant decrease in the numbers on the previous year, from 1,855 to 1,418 – a reduction of 24 per cent.
The number of accidental house fires is down by 10 per cent, from 246 in 2012 to 221 in 2013, along with a reduction in deliberate primary fires* of 17 per cent, and deliberate secondary fires* of 13 per cent.
Graham said: “Although the number of deliberate fires is down in Cambridgeshire, we still have pockets of problems within the county, which last year came in the form of bin and stack fires. This year we will continue to work with partners to drive those numbers down further and educate young people about the potential consequences of becoming involved with arson-related behaviour.
“One of the sad facts however is that while fires are decreasing, there are still far too many devastating road traffic collisions happening on our roads. We rescue far more people from crashed cars than we do from burning buildings, so we will continue to work with partners to try and drive these numbers down and prevent further loss of life on the roads.”
Graham concluded: “Last year was a good year for us and our achievements have been through tremendous teamwork by everyone who works at CFRS, including members of the Fire Authority and representative bodies. The number of fires and incidents we attend is going down and our promotion of safety messages seems to be getting through, so I thank people for listening and helping us to keep Cambridgeshire and Peterborough one of the safest places to live in the country with regard to fire.”