WORRIED Knutsfordians have launched a petition opposing the changes in staffing at Knutsford Fire Station.
The petition, which was set up by a group of residents, stated that the Mobberley Road station would be down-graded from full-time to part-time, bringing the call out time from 90 seconds to seven minutes and that if the service cannot recruit part-timers, the station would close.
But Cheshire Fire has dismissed the claim there are plans to close the station, however it confirmed plans are in motion to change it to an on-call station in 2015/16.
Petition originators, John Parrin, Max Jackson and Joanne Jackson, have gained support of neighbours and friends, including signature gatherer 91-year-old Gwen Coleman, and the petition has been placed in 23 establishments across Knutsford.
Joanne Jackson, of Manor Park North, said: “The fire-fighters are always there, we take these heroes for granted until we need them. Well they need us – now is the time to stand up and be counted.
“Apart from our needs, these brave lads have families of their own. Everyone we have spoken to feels the same.”
The petition is of particular importance to Joanne as she has had first-hand experience of the service provided by the fire-fighters.
Joanne added: “I personally experienced a fire at home when we lived in Parkgate. The usual chip pan fire. I was terrified but they arrived in a very short time, did not ruin my home, and did their job with such dedication – I never forgot.”
At the time of publication, the signature count stood at 780 – but 17 copies of the petition are still to be collected and counted. It is hoped the remainder will be collected at the weekend.
“There is not a person in the big area of Knutsford Fire Station covers that it does not concern,” added Joanne.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service addressed the concerns outlined in the petition but stressed the station would not close.
A spokesperson said: “There are certainly no plans to close Knutsford Fire Station.
“What we are planning to do is change the way it is staffed in 2015/16 to an on-call station. This is a tried and tested model that is already used in the majority of fire stations across Cheshire.
”The decision to change the way Knutsford Fire Station is staffed is part of a comprehensive plan to fundamentally change our emergency response service and improve attendance times across Cheshire.
“The plan, which involves the building of up to five new stations, has already been the subject of a widespread public consultation. The details and results of this consultation are available on our website. One of these is a new full time station in Lymm, which will be able to provide an additional emergency response to the Knutsford area.
“Cheshire Fire Authority is facing ongoing cuts of eight per cent a year from their central Government funding – meaning that savings of over £8 million will be needed over the next four years.
“Despite this they have pledged not to make any firefighters compulsory redundant. They have been able to do so by changing how some fire stations are staffed and making reductions in support service areas.
“The Authority is confident that its programme will continue to deliver an effective and efficient emergency response to local residents and maintain the major improvements in community safety in recent years.”