New and replacement fire engines may not be deployed in Somerset until the middle of 2021 because of the coronavirus.
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service will be spending more than £15M over the next five years on replacement fire engines as part of its ‘Safer Together’ programme – with just over £5M being committed for the first year.
Parts of the programme have already been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with the phasing out of fire engines at Bridgwater, Taunton and Yeovil being postponed.
Now the delivery of new fire engines has been delayed until 2021 due to a lack of parts and staff training – though some smaller vehicles will be
introduced before that time.
The fire service is investing in three new types of vehicle to allow it to respond more appropriately to fires across the service area:
- Light four-wheel drive pumps (L4Ps), which can be first on the scene quickly
- Wildfire all-terrain vehicles, to access difficult-to-reach fires in rural areas
- Medium rescue pumps (MVPs) to replace the existing fleet of fire engines reaching the end of their service life
Director of service improvement Damien Borlase explained the situation in a report published before a virtual meeting of the fire authority’s community scrutiny and corporate planning committee on Thursday (July 16).
He said in his written report: “It is anticipated the roll out of the new L4P vehicles… will be delayed due to the unavailability of parts and training for crews.
“This should recommence in mid-July or August, with the expected introduction of the new wildfire all-terrain vehicles in September.
“A three- to six-month delay is anticipated for delivery of the first batch of Medium Rescue Pumps (MRPs), which forms part of the fleet replacement project. These are now expected between April and June 2021.”
Mr Borlase said the new wildfire vehicles would allow the third engines at Bridgwater, Taunton and Yeovil to be phased out as originally planned.
He said the delays associated with the rollout had been “delayed due to factors beyond the control of the service” and that every effort was being made to progress aspects of the Safer Together programme.
He said: “The fleet replacement project is delayed due to suppliers being furloughed, thus delaying delivery of required vehicle parts, which delays the delivery of the new wildfire vehicles.
“This was compounded by driver training being reduced due to the service business continuity response impacting all non-critical activities.”
By Daniel Mumby, local democracy reporting partnership