Surrey Fire and Rescue Service

FIREFIGHTERS are likely to vote on industrial action against a plan that includes one of Woking’s fire engines being unavailable for night-time emergency calls.

A firefighter tackles a housefire

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is furious at a reorganisation that will see seven engines at full-time stations across the county without crews from 6pm to 9am.

The plan, called Making Surrey Safer, was unanimously approved by the county council’s cabinet on Tuesday last week, despite huge opposition from firefighters and a petition signed by more than 11,000 people.

It will mean Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will nominally have 23 front-line fire engines on call overnight throughout the week, instead of the current 30.

Claims that the brigade already does not have enough frontline and control room staff to provide safe emergency cover had led the FBU to launch a trade dispute before the cabinet meeting.

The union has given the service until Monday to address its concerns, or it will hold an industrial action ballot.

For the full story get the 3 October 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

AN investigation is underway after a fire broke out at a former pub in Knaphill on Sunday evening.

The former Robin Hood Pub ablaze

Police were called to the site of the former Robin Hood pub in Robin Hood Road around 5.55pm.

“A cordon remains in place this morning while we continue with our enquiries in conjunction with Surrey Fire and Rescue Service to establish the circumstances of the fire,” said a police spokesman.

“We are keen to hear from anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area around the time of the incident, or anyone with any other information, to contact us as a matter of urgency. If you can help, please contact us on 101, quoting crime reference number PR/45190049280.”

For more details and pictures, see this Thursday’s (16 May) 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’S firefighters are urging the public to sign a petition to halt plans which would see one fire engine with a crew of just four covering the borough at night.

They are also asking people to lobby their councillors and MP as part of a campaign against a reduction in night-time fire service cover across the county.

Local firefighters are worried that proposed cuts will lead to an increase in preventable deaths and injuries

The cuts are detailed in a Surrey Fire and Rescue Service proposal which would see seven whole-time appliances left un-crewed between 7am and 7pm. During this time, 23 engines would be available instead of the current 30.

The reorganisation – called Making Surrey Safer – plans for Woking, Guildford, Camberley and Spelthorne stations to each lose one of their two engines and single-appliance stations Egham, Painshill and Banstead to close completely at night.

The Surrey branch of the Fire Brigades Union is leading the campaign against the cuts, which it says will cause more preventable deaths and injuries and increase the time it takes to get fire crews to incidents.

“There may be fewer house fires than in the past, but 74% of all deaths in fires occur at night, when we need to maintain our cover for that reason alone,” the union’s Woking representative, Graham Whitfield, told the News & Mail.

“We are inviting councillors to come and meet us to find out why we think the cuts will be dangerous, for the public and firefighters.

“We are the troops on the ground and have to deal with members of the public when there is an emergency. If the councillors knew exactly what we do at incidents, then they might change their minds about the cuts.”

He asked the public to visit the station’s Facebook page to find the email addresses of councillors they should lobby and to sign the FBU petition at

For the full story get the 18 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

CHILDREN from across Woking borough learned valuable life skills and how to keep safe and healthy during Junior Citizen courses held throughout March.

A series of fun and informative sessions were staged for primary school pupils taking part in the in the long-running safety programme.

Pupils escape from a smoke filled room in a “burning house”

The course, held at Woking Football Club’s ground in Kingfield, is organised by members of the Safer Woking Partnership.

It is supported by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, Surrey Police, British Transport Police, Woking Borough Council, New Vision Homes, the football club and the Children and Family Health Service.

The children found out what it is like to enter a room that is on fire and a “stranger danger” session was led by police officers.

British Transport Police raised awareness of the hazards around railway lines and a new session for 2019 run by the Children and Family Health Service had advice on healthy eating and the dangers of consuming too much sugar.

Jane Spong, head of youth and community at Woking Football Club, said: “We are always very impressed by the mature way in which the young people who pass through the doors handle each different situation, whilst still having fun.”

For the full story get the 28 March edition of the News & Mail

FIRE destroyed around 80 acres of Chobham Common on Monday, in the biggest blaze on the heathland for at least 10 years.

Twenty six fire appliances were sent to tackle the flames, which were driven rapidly across the tinder dry national nature reserve by a strong wind.

A Land Rover appliance in front of flames racing through dry heather

The fire brigade was called by heathland wardens who found the common alight at about 11.30am. The incident was finally declared under control at 5.25pm and several fire crews stayed on the common overnight to ensure hot embers did not reignite.

Chobham Fire Station’s crew were the first to arrive at the blaze, followed by Land Rover and Unimog specialist heathland appliances from Camberley.

“The fire had started to the east of Tank Hill, near the Longcross Estate,” Chobham’s officer in charge, Jason Patrick, told the News & Mail.

“It was beginning to race across the common when we got to it. It was spreading rapidly, so I immediately radioed to ask for 10 fire engines and 12 Land Rovers to attend.”

“Within minutes, it had jumped the oil pipeline track across the common and was heading south towards Langshot Stables.”

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service also sent three more Unimog all-terrain vehicles. Appliances attending included a water tanker from Pangbourne in Berkshire and a Land Rover from Midhurst in West Sussex, along with fire engines from Hampshire and one from London.

“The fire was crossing some very difficult terrain and travelling up some steep slopes, which made it difficult to get to in places,” said Jason.

The fire tore through 80 acres of the nature reserve before it was brought under control

The fire service set up a control centre in the parking area of the Eastern and Oriental restaurant in Windsor Road, with ambulances crews standing by there in case firefighters were injured.

The volunteer Surrey Search and Rescue organisation sent several of its units to the incident. Its members sent up a camera-equipped drone to provide the fire service with aerial views of the burning common.

It is not yet known how the fire started but a Surrey Fire and Rescue spokesman said: “As with all fires the cause will be investigated.”

Surrey Wildlife Trust was assessing the extent of devastation regarding local wildlife – see the News & Mail 28 March for more details.

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

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