On Sunday I asked if we would ever get full details of the response to this fire. Well details of the initial response have now been released.
WSFRS say that the first fire engine from Chichester (9 miles away) arrived 16 minutes after the call was received. The second fire engine from Selsey (around 200 metres away) arrived 17 minutes after the call, and the third from Bognor Regis (11 miles away) arrived 18 minutes after the initial call.
It is good that they have come clean on these times, as they did fail to meet their own generous response standard. For parts of Selsey the response should be one fire engine within 12 minutes and the second within 15 minutes. There is no explanation about the unusually long time it took the Selsey crew to arrive. Although they are Retained Duty System firefighters, they would still normally be on the road within 5 minutes.
Would a quicker response have saved the school? Perhaps not, but we will never know. What is well known though, is that there is a relationship between speed of response and lives and property saved. It must be very concerning for the residents of Selsey to realise that, if it had been a fire in someone's home and they were trapped at that time, help was 16 minutes away.
The report tells us that 14 fire engines, 2 Aerial Ladder Platforms and other specialist vehicles were needed to deal with the incident, but not where they all came from. However, we do know that, as a result of cuts, the first aerial appliance had to come from Southsea (Hampshire), instead of Chichester. We also know that 3 of the 14 fire engines that would have been scheduled to attend ten years ago, have also been cut.
With extra distances to travel, more time is lost in assembling adequate resources. Did that result in more damage being caused? Again we don't know, but time is precious when trying to stop fires spreading.