Date: 16th June, 2021
Members of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority met today (16 June) for their Annual General Meeting.
Cllr Rebecca Knox was re-elected as Chair of the Authority; Cllr Paul Oatway was elected as vice-Chair of the Authority; Cllr Byron Quayle was elected as Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee and Cllr Pip Ridout was elected as vice-Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee.
Cllr Knox said: “It is a privilege to have been re-elected as Chair of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority and I am grateful to my fellow elected Members for their support. We have responsibility for an excellent fire and rescue service, and I know I speak for the full Authority when I say how proud we are of our workforce. We will work to deliver results across our prevention, protection and emergency response activities over the coming year despite the financial challenges we face.”
The Authority approved the Community Safety Plan 2021-24 which went through public consultation in the Spring. They also received the annual Service performance review for 2020-21. With a year dominated by the Coronavirus pandemic, the report shows how the Service has performed against its priorities and targets set by the Authority through the Community Safety Plan, as well as how staff have adapted to new ways of working, whilst supporting partners to keep communities safe. In 2020-21, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service have:
- Kept health and care workers safe by undertaking 1,785 respiratory PPE FaceFit tests.
- Supported the vaccination programme through helping at mass vaccination centres
- Supported South Western Ambulance Service by driving emergency ambulances. Firefighters have completed 1,590 shifts, attending over 3,400 emergency calls.
Despite the pandemic, the Service has continued to deliver against its key targets, with a 12% reduction in accidental dwelling fires and a 22% reduction in deliberate fires which resulted in almost £2m of societal savings. Coronavirus restrictions meant that staff had to consider innovative ways to deliver their work. An example of this is the innovative road safety education packages, which received national recognition and have contributed toward the 33% reduction in road traffic collisions across the Service area in 2020-21.
The Service continued with its commitment to protect the public through fire safety regulation and conducted almost 400 fire safety audits of commercial premises and achieved a 17% reduction in unwanted automatic fire alarms.
Thankfully operational demand for the Service was down during 2020-21, due to Coronavirus lockdowns. However, during May and June 2020 the Service dealt with one of the largest wildfires in living memory in Wareham Forest, Dorset. The incident lasted almost eight weeks, with additional costs of over £570,000. Fire Authority Members were presented with an update on the fire and the work that the Service are involved in to prevent such wildfires in the future.
Chief Fire Officer, Ben Ansell said: “2020-21 was an extremely challenging year. Staff from across the Service have and continue to go above and beyond to help their communities, ensuring that we can still deliver our prevention, protection and emergency response functions. We have achieved this whilst also undertaking extraordinary roles to support our partners and, in particular, the NHS.
He added: “Despite the challenges we have faced, I am very pleased with the performance of the Service. We continue to operate in a challenging financial climate, with difficult decisions to be made, but our fantastic staff are key to ensuring we keep our communities safe, whether at home, at work or on our roads. I look forward to working with Cllr Knox and our new Fire and Rescue Authority over the coming year to ensure we do our best to build on and continue this excellent work.”