THE flag for the new Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue service was raised on Friday officially marking the historic merger between the fire authorities from both counties. From the new headquarters at Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre in Salisbury new chief fire officer (CFO) Darran Gunter spoke of it as the end of a “courageous journey”.
The idea for the new service was first floated back in December 2013 as a way of saving money across the two authorities. The combined fire authority will have 50 fire stations, 73 fire engines and over 1,000 full-time and on-call firefighters.
It also means around 60 to 100 back office staff will be based in Salisbury but bosses say no compulsory redundancies have been made so far.
CFO Gunter described it as the most complex and challenging transformation of a public service taking place anywhere in the country. He said that already other councils, police and fire services had been in contact to ask for advice on how to undertake a merger.
“Today is the start of a new journey, a new race for the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue service,” he said. “It is a much larger organisation but one which will be safer, stronger and more sustainable.
“I am completely sure on what we know today about our finances, we do not need to make any detrimental or negative cuts to services.”
The new authority says it will invest more in fire prevention with the number of home safety checks being carried out set to almost to double to 25,000 a year.
CFO Gunter added that he will also undertake a review of both staff and buildings seeing how it can better utilise its resources. This includes more joined-up work with other emergency services.
He said: “There is more work we could do with the ambulance service on a pay as you go basis around hospital transfer of patients. It is aimed at rural areas improving the safety of the communities and making the role of a retained fire officer more rewarding. If we can get the finance model right then it is a win-win.”
The choice of Salisbury as the new headquarters for the combined service was a strategic decision — being the largest city on the border of the counties. They move into the offices originally planned for use by Wiltshire Police.
“It is highly likely that when we sort out all of the staff [relocating] we will be advertising jobs locally to the people of Salisbury,” CFO Gunter said. “So we will be a good employer for the city of Salisbury.
“Here we are in partnership with Wiltshire Council in this fantastic centre which is concerned about health and wellbeing. That couldn’t be a greater complement for what the modern fire and rescue service is all about.