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Safer Together - Service delivery public consultation


Why we are changing

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service was originally designed over 50 years ago. Since then, the make-up of our communities and the way in which people live their lives has changed significantly. The majority of our existing 85 fire stations have been in place for well over 30 years and the firefighter duty systems have not changed since the 1970s.

If we were to start from scratch and rebuild our fire service with new fire stations and duty systems to meet today’s needs, it would undoubtedly look a lot different.

In future we need to make sure we can prioritise and increase our capacity to deliver targeted prevention and protection activities in our communities, focusing on the known risks in each area.

We must change to make sure we are providing the best possible response to match the modern risks of today. We need increased availability to ensure we can give the right response, at the right time, whilst making the most efficient use of resources.

We also need to make significant financial savings. The funding we receive is changing, with anticipated reduced grant funding from central Government. Alongside this, costs are increasing, so we will need to meet a potentially significant revenue shortfall to enable the Service provision to continue.

Challenges around availability and demand for our fire and rescue service

Whilst we currently provide a sufficiently high level of service, there are aspects that are no longer matching risk. We have too many fire engines and staff in areas where risks are low and therefore demand has fallen, and in other areas where the risk has increased, we do not have enough resources.

Due to the changing nature of employment within our communities over the years, we cannot recruit and retain sufficient On-call Firefighters to crew all of our existing fire engines as less people now work in the communities in which they live. Of those that do, many cannot afford (or cannot be released by their employers) to leave their jobs when their pager activates to attend emergency incidents for us. Our current requirement is for on-call staff to live and work within five minutes of a fire station. This may mean that even if a fire engine is at a fire station, there may not be enough firefighters available to crew it.

We have talked about shifts in the population of Devon and Somerset, but along with these new housing developments, there have been huge changes in our road networks. In some areas we have challenges navigating through busy traffic to reach emergencies, whilst in other areas, the new road networks help us to reach locations faster than before.

We need to change our staffing arrangements to make sure we have sufficient availability, and reconsider the location of fire stations to match resource to risk.

We are working with our staff to ensure they are fully involved with the consultation process and have all the support they need.

You can read more about why we need to change here.

What we’re considering as part of the wider Safer Together change programme: 

  • How many of our existing fire stations we still need due to falling numbers of incidents
  • Refurbishment, relocation or rebuilding of fire stations 
  • Location and number of different types of fire engines (also called appliances)
  • New types of fire engines
  • New equipment for firefighters
  • Firefighter shift patterns and duty systems
  • Improved digital technology to support our work 

How we've already helped reduce the number of fires

In the ten years to 2018, total fires have reduced by 33% across England. This reduction has largely been due to two things: our work around fire prevention and protection, and changes in technology and habits. (Data 2007/08 - 2017/18 from FIRE0102 Government statistical data).

Every year we carry out about 28,000 hours of prevention activities across Devon and Somerset, including home safety visits, school talks and visiting other groups. We also carry out checks and audits for non-domestic premises and events - around 18,000 hours a year.

There have been significant changes in both technology and our daily habits which have impacted the number of fires. The smoking ban; changes to furniture and furnishing regulations; and even the introduction of the oven chip meaning we deep-fry less, have all contributed to reducing fire risks inside the home.

To put this into context, 56 of our fire station areas, (including Lundy) have fewer than 10 dwelling fires a year. A dwelling fire is a fire in a domestic property such as house, flats or caravan. (Data is a five year average taken from April 2014 to March 2019 inclusive).

Eight of our fire station areas, (including Lundy) have fewer than 10 fires of all types a year. This could be a minor fire such as a dustbin fire. (Data is a five year average taken from April 2014 to March 2019 inclusive).

We need to adapt to our ever-changing population

Not only have our lives and habits changed, our population in Devon and Somerset has changed too.

In the past few years we have seen significant new housing developments across our two counties, and these new developments are continuing to grow. This means we need to assess where we are located in relation to this change in population size and shape.

Through our risk analysis and risk profiling, we also know some people will be more at risk of being involved in a fatal fire due to certain factors, and we need to ensure we are able to take steps to reduce the likelihood of these incidents.

For example, we know that those aged over 85 have a much higher rate of fatal fires. In Devon and Somerset, it is predicted that the number of people aged over 85 will nearly double (43% increase) in the next ten years.

This means we need to take steps to reduce the risk of incidents happening, through our prevention work. As part of our Safer Together proposed changes we will be looking to prioritise and increase our capacity to deliver targeted prevention and protection activities in our communities.

We have been analysing our own data as well as data from partners. This new intelligence means we know how we need to match our resources - our crews, equipment and fleet - to specific risks in each of our communities. It also means we could increase our capacity for important prevention and protection work activity within our annual budget.

Questions or feedback about Safer Together? Get in touch:


Options for change

Six options for changing the way we operate our fire service were presented to the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority for consideration at a meeting on 28 June 2019 (details here). At the meeting the Fire Authority recommended that the Service proceed with the public consultation on the six options. In addition they also put forward a number of recommendations to be considered as part of the consultation process. The options are summarised below.

Option 1 - Station closures at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham, Woolacombe)

Option 2 - Station closures listed in option 1, plus removal of third fire engines at Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil

Option 3 - Option 2, plus removal of second fire engines at Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes

Option 4 - Option 3, plus change of status to day crewing at Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton

Option 5 - Option 4, plus change of status of second fire engine to on-call at night only at Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Wellington, Wells and Williton

Option 6 - Option 5, plus the introduction of day crewed roving fire engines for targeted response and additional prevention work

Option 7 - Mix and match option, the opportunity to include any combination of the elements used in the other options. Please see the consultation document for further details.

In this video ACFO Pete Bond explains what option 7 - the 'mix and match' option means. He also explains why it is important for you to give specific feedback in the consultation survey.


Glossary of terms - to help you understand the terminology we sometimes use.

Supporting documents

There are a number of documents which may help inform you.

Questions or feedback about Safer Together? 

Please email: 

Or write to us at: 

Communications and Engagement 

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service 

Service Headquarters 

The Knowle 

Clyst St George 



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