Fire Safety

WOKING Fire Station opened its doors to the public recently and was rewarded with an excellent turnout under glorious blue skies.

Firefighter Richard Colyer in the cab with Ana Tymechko and Maksim, 4

The free event, on 14 September, drew plenty of families, who came along to meet their local fire crews and enjoy taking part in the activities on offer.

Natasha Middleditch with a suitably dressed Fleur, 3

Children loved, among other attractions, dressing up as firefighters, having rides on mini fire engines and getting behind the wheel of the real thing.

There were also displays to engage all ages, notably a blazing reminder of the dangers that a pan of hot fat can present.  

A ready supply of refreshments, cakes and ice creams were on hand to maintain energy levels on a warm afternoon, along with toys and collectibles to buy.

All proceeds from the event are donated to two charities – the Woking & Sam Beare Hospices and The Fire Fighters Charity.

For more pictures of the event, get the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

SURREY’S firefighters say their brigade is “on its knees” through staff shortages which make several fire engines unavailable every day across the county.

They are urging people to complain to their county and borough councillors about the dire state of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

The closed-down Robin Hood pub at Knaphill was destroyed by fire in May. Woking Fire Station, which covers the area, often has just one of its engines available due to staff shortages

Fire crews and their union also say councillors must oppose a proposed reorganisation which will take wholetime fire engines out of service during the night shift and at weekends.

The anger of firefighters comes at a time when up to 12 fire engines at wholetime stations are unavailable at the start of each watch, or shift, due to staff shortages.

Stations which are regularly shut due to shortages include Painshill, Walton, Esher and Banstead. The new station at Ashford, Fordbridge – an amalgamation of the now defunct Sunbury and Staines stations – is also suffering staff shortages.

The reasoning behind the proposed reduction in appliances overnight, set out in the Making Surrey Safer plan, is a fall in the number of fires attended by the UK fire service in recent years. Surrey Fire and Rescue Service wants to move more resources into fire prevention duties.

But the FBU says that most deaths in fires occur between 6pm and 9am and is opposing the night-time reduction in cover.

A Woking firefighter commented: “For a few months we have warned of a storm on the horizon. That storm grows ever closer. This was completely foreseeable, but management chose to ignore it.”

“Now is the time for the public to fight for your fire service and oppose these cuts and complain, to your local councillor. The battle is looming, and together as a community we can, and we will win.”

Surrey County Council’s cabinet is due to receive a report on the Making Surrey Safer recommendations following the public consultation. The reorganisation is planned to be implemented in 2020.

For the full story get today’s (29 August) edition of the News & Mail

COUNTRYSIDE managers have renewed pleas for people not to do anything which could start a wildfire.

Their appeal follows a second serious fire this year on Chobham Common and other blazes on heathland during the recent hot weather.

Amateur photographer Lee Ridley took this photo of flames ripping into pine and birch trees during Friday’s fire on Chobham Common

Another 11 acres of heather and trees were destroyed at Chobham on Friday afternoon last week, following a 100-acre blaze on the national nature reserve at the end of March.

Heathland at Whitmore Common, Worplesdon, and Sheets Heath, Brookwood, has also gone up in flames in the past week, as a strong wind fanned flames in tinder-dry undergrowth.

Much of the heathland in the county is managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust, whose estate manager asked the public to be extra careful in the countryside.

“The most important thing is that people don’t discard their cigarette ends,” Lee Thorton told the News & Mail. “We also ask that people don’t use barbecues or have any naked flames such as campfires on the heathland.

“Conditions are bad for wildlife at the moment in terms of creating fires. The conditions are so dry after a winter with little rain and there is still a lot of dead grass from last year on the ground.”

Anyone seeing smoke or someone who could be lighting a fire on heathland should immediately call the fire service on 999.

For the full story get the 25 April edition of the News & Mail

WOKING Borough Council should make a stronger response to the proposed reduction in cover at the town’s fire station, says a councillor who was once a firefighter.

A firefighter tackles a house fire

Ian Eastwood, a Liberal Democrat member for Goldsworth Park, spoke out against Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s reorganisation plan at a meeting of the council’s executive committee.

The committee was told that Woking would have two fire engines on call during the day, but only one during evenings and night-time. The same cut would be made at Camberley and Guildford, which send appliances to help if there is a serious incident in the borough.

But Mr Eastwood, who was a part-time firefighter at Chobham for several years, said the night-time cuts could put lives at risk.

“Having just one engine for Woking at night, when we will soon have several tower blocks in the town centre, will not be enough. I know the towers will have sprinkler systems, but if several people need to be rescued from a high-rise fire, it will be very difficult if back-up engines have to come from a distance.”

For the full story get the 4 April edition of the News & Mail

PROPOSED cuts in fire service cover will make Surrey less safe, says the county’s firefighters’ union.

It is alarmed at plans outlined in a public consultation document called Making Surrey Safer, which include reducing Woking to having just one fire engine available at night instead of two around the clock.

A Surrey firefighter tackles a housefire

“It’s a known fact, and particularly in Surrey, that an overwhelming majority of fire deaths occur between the hours of 6pm and 9am,” the secretary of the county’s Fire Brigades Union, Lee Belsten, told the News & Mail.

“Previous reports produced by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service have shown these fire deaths occur in the areas where the pumps are proposed to be removed – Elmbridge, Guildford, Woking and Spelthorne.”

In Chobham, the village’s part-time crew is similarly alarmed by the proposal, which will see their single engine on call only during evenings, nights and weekends.

If implemented, it would mean that at least four of Chobham Fire Station’s firefighters would be made redundant and the station’s fire engine would be available only from 7pm to 7am on weekdays and 24 hours at weekends.

“What is being planned cannot possibly make people safer,” a Chobham firefighter told the News & Mail.

As it faces more cuts to its budget, the fire service is consulting the public on its plan to have fewer fire engines available from 2020.

The public has until May 29 to comment on the proposals, which are set out in a document called Making Surrey Safer. It can be viewed and downloaded from www.surrey-fire.gov.uk.

For the full story get the 7 March edition of the News & Mail

A WOKING family had a lucky escape when a large recycling bin next to their home caught fire.

Taxi firm owner Ioan Urs noticed the fire as he was de-icing his car at Moorholme off Guildford Road around 6.45am last Wednesday.

Aftermath: the smoking remains of the bin fire

“I evacuated my wife and children from the house and got the fire extinguisher from my car,” Ioan said.

“There were big flames and black smoke – the rubber lid of the bin had caught fire.”

Ioan said it was lucky that he saw the fire, which could have got out of control had he and his neighbours not tackled it when they did.

A spokesman for Woking Fire & Rescue said that by the time the first fire engine arrived, Mr Urs and his neighbours had largely put out the fire and had pulled the bin away from the properties.

“That’s a good thing to do – provided you are careful and don’t get hurt. We finished off damping it all down,”

He added: “If you have wheelie bins, make sure they have lids. The bin with the fire and another one didn’t have lids.”

For the full story get the latest edition of the News & Mail (Feb 7th)