CHESHIRE chief fire officer Steve McGuirk has reassured the public and his staff that there are no proposals to 'fundamentally reduce fire cover' as a result of the Government's modernisation agenda.
Concerns have been expressed by firefighters that the community will get a diminished service in future with wider implications for the safety of the public and operational personnel.
But Mr McGuirk has gone on the record to address some of the worries expressed with regard to the publication of a White Paper on modernisation of the Fire Service by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
He said: 'We currently have no proposals to fundamentally change or reduce fire cover in Cheshire to different levels for different periods of day or night.'
Cheshire Fire Service is presently conducting in-depth research to be completed by the end of September, called Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP).
This is the start of a new way of looking at risk and community safety using risk information and data relating to incidents the Fire Service has responded in the past.
In addition, it will also look to new areas including the broadened role it is envisaged the Fire Service will play in community safety as outlined in the White Paper.
Mr McGuirk added: 'These matters need much more work and reflective analysis. In any event, we will be going through extensive consultation involving the community of Cheshire, and key stakeholders, including, of course, our own personnel.
IRMP is about having the right resources in the right place, at the right time.'
But Mr McGuirk suggested that sudden and major change was unlikely.
He added: 'In Cheshire, we have a strong track record of change and adaptation to build on. I see no reason for 'knee-jerk' reactions with the obvious potential implications for public safety.
'There are areas where we believe we can improve our performance and service delivery by using new technology, different vehicles, and different ways of doing things, but the overriding factor will be evidence and risk-based decision making against clear performance standards.'
In a final message to his personnel, Mr McGuirk said: 'Do not interpret this to mean we will always 'stay as we are'. It is far too early to make these statements, and we know there are things we can do to modernise in the short term, but it does mean we have no intention to 'worsen' response times, and indeed, would actually wish to improve.'