Ashburton Fire Service Protest and a Shout

Laura White
Laura White

In the face of an uncertain future, locals and firefighters alike from Ashburton’s Fire Station gathered for a demonstration on Saturday 14th September, marching through the town to the station in support of Ashburton’s brave firefighters.

Having met at Cleder Place, the group spent the afternoon making a stand against the proposed closure of Ashburton Fire Station. Chanting and shouting as they marched through the streets, people were also on hand to help fill out consultation forms, with locals encouraged to get involved and have their voices heard before the consultation deadline on 22nd September.

The entire community was welcomed to the event, with a tractor and seated trailer provided for those unable to walk up the hill through Ashburton’s town centre. Also in attendance was Teignbridge District Councillor Sarah Parker-Khan, who has been a key figure in challenging the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service operational changes since they were first announced earlier this year.

Sarah is passionate about retaining the fire station, and having completed a freedom of information request, has since learnt that should Ashburton’s Station close, a huge 1,816 households will no longer be covered by the benchmark 10 minute response time as set by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue.

Not including businesses and schools in this figure, Ashburton’s close proximity to the A38 and availability of day cover workers are factors that the councillor, and other campaigners, believe have also been overlooked by those who made the proposals to close the station.

Half way through the demonstration, Ashburton’s fire fighters were called to provide cover at nearby Ivybridge Fire Station as there were no available engines between Ashburton and Plymouth at the time of the incident.

With the firefighters leaving the demonstration and sprinting back to the station, Ashburton’s team were the only firefighters available to cover the entire A38 corridor between the two areas.

A stark reminder of the need for Ashburton Station’s resources, Sarah Parker-Khan said that this example “proves perfectly how short sighted these proposals really are and the risk to the public if they went ahead”.

Having been called out 6 times in only the week before the demonstration, many of the Ashburton Station’s call outs are considered to be outside of their fire ground, as often the crew are called to cover other areas.

With lots of the data used in the initial report based on local fire stations having a 100% response rate, many believe that the basis of the proposals are unrealistic as they do not consider these outside of area calls which are becoming increasingly common for Ashburton’s Fire Fighters as other stations become busy.

Mid Devon MP Mr Stride said: “There are several reasons why this closure is wrong and working with local fire station personnel I am taking the arguments directly to the fire authority. I am continuing to work closely with local fire officers and the wider community to challenge these proposals and to work towards keeping our station open.”

Thankfully, the demonstration event was a success, with an “encouraging, vibrant and passionate strength of feeling” growing amongst local people.

Councillor Sarah Parker-Khan hopes that the efforts of the people will not go unnoticed in shedding light on the real need for Ashburton’s Fire Station, and those with an interest are encouraged to respond online to the proposals before the consultation period closes on  
22nd September.