Ipswich Waterfront Meets The French Riviera

Jon Southgate is a Station Commander, his role being that of Deputy District Commander of the South District of Suffolk’s Fire & Rescue Service

Wow, what a fantastic spell of weather we’ve had haven’t we? To be down at the Waterfront on those hot, hot days you could have been in Cannes or Monaco!

Spare a thought for our Firefighters who have been incredibly busy fighting fires on an unprecedented basis! To be sitting outside with a cool drink can be hot enough, but imagine running after a fire to stop it spreading with sometimes little more than a broom handle fitted with a square piece of canvas…puts a different perspective on things!

We experienced some major fires involving crops and undergrowth: one required 20 fire appliances, many others required double figures, whilst the majority took around 5-7 crews to deal with them.

That causes us several issues: firstly, with 35 fire stations around the county and being placed in built up areas where they provide the best fire cover, you can imagine that a 20-pump fire draws appliances away from their home areas. We have to decide where to pull crews in to maintain cover. 

The next issue is to plan in relief crews. Fighting large fires is extremely tiring: after around 4 hours, each crew is replaced with a fresh crew which impacts on fire cover in its own way. On many days, we set up a secondary control room in Ipswich which assisted in the fire cover - it’s rare that we have to do this but like all our operations, we plan and practice for these events.

Whilst among our 35 fire stations, we have 6 crews on a day shift who are full time, the majority of our Firefighters are On Call. These men and women have a day job and when their pager goes off, they drop what they’re doing and head off to their local fire station to quickly get rigged in firekit and then off to the emergency! Often during the hot spell, they’d go from one fire to the next and I’d like to personally thank every single one of Suffolk’s Firefighters whether they’re full time or On Call. We couldn’t operate as effectively as we do without the understanding and support of Suffolk’s employers who allow some of their staff to be On Call Firefighters which has been particularly testing over the hot spell.

See you next month, stay safe!