Safety fears as fire service downgraded

Kilsyth Fire Station held an open day during Civic Week
Kilsyth Fire Station held an open day during Civic Week

Concerns for the safety of Kilsyth residents have been raised following a downgrade of the town’s fire services.

Kilsyth councillor Heather McVey attacked plans to replace the town’s retained fire engine with a smaller rapid response unit.

Speaking at the most recent full meeting of North Lanarkshire Council, she said: “Kilsyth’s retained service involves local people who are beeped to come to the station and respond to emergency call outs. Their response times are seven to nine minutes faster than any full-time service.

“However, due to the £400m reduction in the budget of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the current appliance is to be replaced by a rapid response unit, which is vastly inferior.

“The new unit is designed for use in rural areas and does not have a hose or ladder suitable for a large amount of the housing stock in Kilsyth, such as three and four storey buildings. In these situations the crew will have to await backup from Cumbernauld, Denny or elsewhere. Kilsyth is also often the second unit called out to incidents in Cumbernauld.”

The news came as Kilsyth Fire Station celebrated its 50th anniversary, a fact Councillor McVey also noted.

She said: “I’m delighted that the station had its open day and hundreds of people came along in the pouring rain to show the support of our community.

“Our current appliance is seven years old and can stay in service for 15 years, so it makes no sense to replace it with an inferior unit that does not fit the needs of any part of North Lanarkshire.”

Labour colleague Councillor Bob Burrows shared the view that the rapid response unit’s shorter ladder, far smaller water capacity and weaker hose pressure meant it was not suitable for use in any North Lanarkshire town.

SNP councillors also shared concern at the plan.

Kilsyth councillor Mark Kerr said: “The cost of a life cannot be measured so the decision to put a rapid response unit in Kilsyth, or in any part of North Lanarkshire, should be monitored by the council in regular updates to the community safety and governance committee to investigate the effectiveness in other locales before the tender is allocated to Kilsyth in 2019 to reassure the public about our commitment to public safety”.

Paul Devlin, Local Senior Officer for North Lanarkshire, said: “Kilsyth is one of many stations being considered to take receipt of one of our new fire appliances and the technologies it carries each representing a combined £200,000 investment in the continued safety of our communities, but we are still very much in the consultation stage and the final decision will be made shortly.”