Response to BBC report on on-call fire appliance availability

Response to BBC report on on-call fire appliance availability


A recent headline in a BBC report has suggested that lives may be put at risk due to their local fire crew not being available. We would like to reassure our communities that this is not the case and explain the measures we have in place to make sure we attend all emergency incidents as quickly as possible.

While you may have a fire station nearby, it may not always be a fire engine from that station that responds to an incident in your area. 

If your local station is crewed by on-call firefighters, there may be times during the day when there are not enough firefighters available to form a crew to respond to an incident. This could be because the station needs more firefighters and is recruiting. Or it could be that firefighters at that station are unable to respond due to other commitments. The crew from your local station could already be responding to another incident.

On these occasions, crews from neighbouring stations or from elsewhere in Devon and Somerset will respond to the incident. We have many fire engines across the Service and we constantly move these around to cover areas so that we can maintain our response times.

The availability of our 112 fire engines is close to 100% during the night, when the risk of fire for people is highest because they are asleep. It is during the day that availability can fluctuate for many reasons. For example, on-call firefighters may be working in their primary employment more than five minutes away from the fire station. 

We have times when we activate what we call ‘business continuity’. This is when we reach a point where we will put specific actions in place to make sure we can maintain our emergency response standards. We set the bar high for this so that we can act immediately. As such it happens rarely, and only for a brief period of time. 

We entered business continuity operations due to our number of available appliances dropping below 66 on two occasions in August 2023. One of those occasions was for just a couple of minutes before the number of available appliances rose above the threshold again. 

Our resources are normally mobilised automatically by our fire control system. When we enter business continuity, we manually triage each incident and make a decision on the appropriate resourcing for that incident. 

We will always attend an emergency incident.

We are actively recruiting for more on-call firefighters, which will be the best way of us increasing our availability and response times. If you are interested in joining, more information and an application form is on our careers pages 

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