Fire station plea

PUBLISHED: 12:03 22 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:33 06 May 2010

SIR – This week marks the third anniversary of the removal of Radlett s fire engine by Hertfordshire County Council, against the wishes of the whole community of Radlett and surrounding villages who had felt safe in the knowledge that a local crew could b

SIR - This week marks the third anniversary of the removal of Radlett's fire engine by Hertfordshire County Council, against the wishes of the whole community of Radlett and surrounding villages who had felt safe in the knowledge that a local crew could be on hand within minutes.

The removal of this 100-year-old facility, which was originally started by enlightened residents following Radlett's rapid growth at the turn of the century, is now recognised to have been a monumental mistake.

The building has stood empty now for three years, yet council taxpayers have had no refund for its closure and the loss of this vital service, while the cost of the security personnel, who can be seen sitting in their vehicles keeping watch on the site most nights, must be astronomical.

It is clear that no engine could reach Radlett as quickly as Radlett's own. The loss of our crew's local knowledge has resulted in visiting crews getting hopelessly lost and asking residents for directions on, to my knowledge, at least six occasions and there must certainly be others.

Borehamwood, which is three times the size of Radlett and has only one engine, have lost the back-up of Radlett's engine, on which they were dependent (an average of 145 calls per year in the five years prior to closure), and now frequently have to wait for Garston's engine to pass Radlett's empty fire station on the way to incidents in Borehamwood. For persons reported fires, two crews must be on scene before the building can be entered.

Since March this year I have personally seen 20 engines passing through Radlett en route to incidents. This must represent only a small proportion of the actual figure, but we know that whatever the figure is, Radlett's crew could have reached all these incidents more quickly.

Since the closure, up to 20 engines from right across Hertfordshire including Cheshunt, Hoddesdon, Stevenage, Hertford, Hemel Hempstead and Mill Hill have been called to or passed through Radlett's ground en route to incidents.

It is obvious that the 30 Conservative county councillors who voted to close Radlett fire station were misled by poorly presented data and had no idea of its strategic position or the huge local community investment in the facility over the past 100 years. Furthermore the original error in closing Radlett has been compounded by the county council's obstinate refusal, which at times appeared vindictive, to admit that they made a mistake or to acknowledge the arguments, which have not diminished but have been strengthened by the passage of time.

On July 17, 2007, I presented a petition with more than 7,000 adult signatures, to the 30 county councillors requesting the immediate return of Radlett's fire engine and crew. The petition was simply brushed aside with this terse two-line response from Chief Fire Officer Roy Wilsher the following day: "I have considered the petition alongside the Integrated Risk Management Plan and data since Radlett fire station closed. I can see no reason to change my advice to the county council." Surely the time has now come for the promised, much-needed and long-overdue review to take place and for Radlett fire station to be reopened immediately.

In the last few months a senior position has been created in the Herts fire service and sources are now suggesting that three more stations - Bushey, Kings Langley and Much Hadham - are now in the firing line for closure, while rumours abound concerning Berkhamstead and Tring. This is surely a case of two many chiefs and not enough engines.

It is still clear that lessons have not been learnt and reappraisal is desperately needed.

STEPHEN OAKES-MONGER

Park Road, Radlett

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