LIVES could be lost if a Colne Valley fire station closes, a leading councillor claimed last night.
West Yorkshire Fire Service unveiled controversial plans yesterday to cut 200 jobs and shut six stations – including Marsden.
Clr David Ridgway, who represents the area on Kirklees Council and chaired West Yorkshire Fire Authority until May, believes the proposal to close the station on Manchester Road is dangerous.
“I’m really disappointed to hear about this,” said the Colne Valley Lib Dem.
“The result of this proposal will potentially put people’s lives at risk.”
West Yorkshire Fire Service announced the plan yesterday as a way to cope with cuts of up to £12m over two years.
The proposal involves closing the fire stations in Marsden and Keighley.
Hunslet and Morley would be shut and a new station opened between the two.
A similar fate awaits Rothwell and Garforth and Cookridge and Moortown.
The plan, which goes to public consultation on September 7, would also mean the loss of 200 firefighting jobs.
The nearest fire station to Marsden would be in Slaithwaite or Meltham – a journey of three miles.
Clr Ridgway said: “I hope that the fire authority will change its mind and take a more pragmatic approach.
“I feel that the cuts being forced on us by central Government are going too deep and too fast.”
His Colne Valley Lib Dem colleague Clr Nicola Turner believes Marsden firefighters could be re-trained as paramedics to help keep the station open.
“When a 10-year-old boy was knocked down on Manchester Road in March, it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to get there,” she said.
“The firemen asked me why they couldn’t be trained as paramedic first responders.
“I made that suggestion at the time but it fell on deaf ears.”
Clr Turner believes Marsden needs a fire station – despite there being another one in Slaithwaite.
“You could say it’s fairly greedy for the Colne Valley to have two, but Marsden Fire Station is actually quite busy. It’s an essential station if there is a moorland fire.”
Kirklees Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan – who chairs the fire authority – is one of 21 councillors who will vote on the proposed cuts when the consultation ends in December.
The Greenhead Labour man said: “I will listen very carefully to the views expressed by councillors and members of the public before casting my vote.”
Clr Khan added: “The current locations of these fire stations across West Yorkshire have been in place since the 1970s and there have been significant changes in the location of communities since then.
“For over two decades the fire service has invested in home safety checks.”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney also pledged to keep an open mind about the proposal.
“I will look at these plans,” he said.
The Conservative pointed out that there had been a huge fire at Grosvenor Chemicals in Linthwaite in 2010.
“It’s really important that people feel safe. We know the importance of having a good fire service on the doorstep after what happened at Grosvenor Chemicals two years ago,” he said.
Announcing the proposals yesterday, chief fire officer Simon Pilling blamed the Government.
“We know we have to find cuts of between and £8m to £12m over the next two years, but all the messages coming out of central government project further reductions in financial support for local authorities up to 2020,” he said.
“Doing nothing is not an option as my inability to recruit would eventually leave fire stations as glorified garages with unstaffed vehicles and equipment.”
Fire Brigades Union West Yorkshire brigade chairman John Durkin said his organisation would resist the plan.
“We are against any cuts within the fire service. There’s a potential that the cuts could compromise the safety of firefighters and the public,” he told the Examiner.
“We will hold a series of public meetings at which we will explain why the cuts are dangerous and I would urge people to attend.”