Public backing for Haworth fire service plan

Proposals to salvage some form of community emergency service from the planned closure of Haworth Fire Station have received public backing.

At least 50 people attended a meeting in Haworth to help decide the future of the village’s fire and rescue service.

Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council chairman, Councillor John Huxley, told last night’s gathering: “We have to do something. We can’t just sit here and let them close the fire station - that is just wrong.”

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service last year announced it was recommending the closure of the retained station as part of a cost-cutting programme.

Following a consultation, during which many people voiced opposition to axing the facility, fire chiefs agreed to put the closure on hold for two years.

At the public meeting, Coun Huxley stressed he and his colleagues were seeking public approval for community-run fire provision which would see volunteers operate from the existing station in Station Road.

He emphasised the facility was highly valued, and said its firefighters responded to incidents 64 times in 2012.

He said senior fire and rescue officers have been supportive of the idea of the parish council and other organisations setting up something which could partially replace the current service.

“This is such a new idea - it would need a big commitment from the community,” he said. “We have to meet with the existing firefighters as soon as possible to see if they will work with us.”

Retired firefighter Joe O’Keeffe said people’s energies would be better spent on fighting for what they already have.

“Nobody will sanction a voluntary fireman putting on breathing apparatus and going into a burning house to rescue someone,” he warned.

“What you will end up with is a Land Rover squirting water into the building until the real firefighters turn up.”

Coun Barry Thorne said: “We will need properly trained firefighters and we have to accept that there’s going to be a cost. Let’s go into this with our eyes open.”

Coun Huxley asked residents if they would support the formation of a group to conduct a feasibility study into the possibility of launching a first responder-style community emergency service. He said this study should be brought before the public no later than December 1 this year.

A show of hands at the meeting indicated overwhelming support for this plan.

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