Could faster fire response have saved Selsey school?
Whilst we don't know if it would have saved the school, any professional firefighter worth his salt knows that a faster response could have saved the school.
It seems the call to this fire was made quickly, which should have given firefighters a very good chance of stopping it spreading. If, of course, they arrived quickly. As we know, it was actually one of the worst initial response times ever reported in West Sussex.
We must be very grateful that it was only property lost on this occasion. Had it been a family in Selsey, waking that morning to find their home on fire, there could have been a really tragic loss of lives.
Whilst there are difficulties recruiting and retaining part time firefighters, that was not the primary issue behind the delay. There were clearly enough firefighters in Selsey at the time, as evidenced by their ability to respond after a few phone calls were made.
The real problem is a management change. Instead of firefighters having to notify the times they are unavailable, they now have to notify, several weeks in advance, when they definitely will be available. That has resulted in a significant drop in the number of fire engines available.
As mentioned, there is a problem recruiting and retaining part time firefighters, and that may well have delayed the reinforcements requested by the first crew to arrive from Chichester. That would also have added to their difficulties in containing the fire.
Yet there are many things that could be done to improve the situation, if the Cabinet Member, David Barling, stopped making excuses and took some positive action. It is high time he showed some leadership, banged heads together, sought help from other Councillors and other organisations, lobbied government and actually looked for the "new and creative options" we were promised to resolve this problem some seven years ago!