A tactical response vehicle based in Uppingham which could potentially replace a fire engine in Rutland will begin work shortly.
The 4x4 vehicle, which carries a range of equipment from hydraulic cutters and a defibrillator to hoses and breathing apparatus, will respond to emergency calls as part of a joint trial scheme by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue and Rutland County Council.
If it is successful, the council could pay up to £150,000 to make the vehicle a permanent addition to the county’s fire response.
The on-call retained fire engine based in Oakham was scrapped as part of wider cost-cutting measures in April, leaving the town with just one fire crew. Rutland County Council had offered £75,000 for the next two years to try to preserve frontline services. This offer was rejected by the fire service in favour of the tactical response vehicle, and it was initially expected the money would go towards the trial. But a vehicle has now been loaned by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, so the council can now decide whether to spend the money at the end of a trial period.
Staff are currently being trained on the tactical response vehicle, which should come into use in the next two weeks.
Deputy chief fire and rescue officer Steve Lunn said the tactical response vehicle would be a much more cost-effective way of answering the bulk of emergency calls in Rutland.
This vehicle is ideally-equipped to deal with about 50 per cent of everything that happens.Deputy chief fire and rescue officer Steve Lunn
“The reality is that the total number of emergency incidents in Rutland is not that high,” he said. “This vehicle is ideally-equipped to deal with about 50 per cent of everything that happens.”
The Mitsubishi vehicle is similar to others in use across the country. It will be able to respond to a variety of calls, including small fires and car crashes, and will also be able to assist at larger incidents. Leicestershire Fire and Rescue is about to launch a consultation on plans to replace on-call fire engines in Melton Mowbray and Coalville with tactical response vehicles.
“They are significantly cheaper,” said officer Lunn. “A fully-equipped fire engine will cost up to £200,000 to buy. For one of the tactical response vehicles you are looking at maybe £50,000. And it’s not just the purchase. They are cheaper as they have lower fuel consumption and environmental impact, and maintenance is significantly more efficient.”
The fire service will give regular updates to the council, but the final decision on whether to keep the tactical response vehicle will rest with councillors.
Rutland county councillor Kenneth Bool (Con) met Chief Fire Officer Richard Chandler to discuss the pilot on Friday.
He said: “The community raised serious concerns when the fire service announced it would look to cut costs by removing one of Oakham’s two fire tenders. As a result and following public consultation, Rutland County Council included in its budget a sum of £150,000 to allow the fire service to explore alternative solutions over a two-year period. The council would only need to pay £50,000 for the tactical response vehicle.
“While this initial offer was rejected, the council is keen to preserve fire services for residents and stated its willingness to listen to counter proposals for the funding. This included the possibility of developing a rapid response vehicle, which was demonstrated at our meeting.”