PETITION: Torquay fire victim joins fight to save fire crew
PEOPLE in Torquay should be proud of their outstanding firefighters and join the fight to save them from cuts, says one blaze victim.
Martin Atkinson says losing one full-time crew would be an unnecessary blow to a superb service.
Mr Atkinson and his family fled from their home in the early hours when an arsonist set fire to an annexe of his property in Windsor Road, Torquay, in December.
The fire happened on a busy night for the service when the town's three pumps were all in action dealing with various incidents. One of those crews now faces the axe.
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Mr Atkinson has nothing but praise for the assistance he and his family received from Torquay firefighters.
The father-of-two, who comes from a Polish and Swedish background, said: "I have been involved in two other fires before I came to the UK and both times the fire brigade did more damage than the fire itself with the amount of water they used.
"This time I am really impressed and people can be proud you have this fire brigade in Torquay.
"First of all they really care and didn't damage anything.
"My five-year-old daughter was crying in the road because she had left her toy in the bed and the firefighter even went back in her bedroom to bring back her toy.
"And they used just as much water as they needed to do and no more. They explained everything they were doing, as did the police."
The roof of the annexe was completely destroyed in the fire.
Mr Atkinson said he could hear the sirens of the engine approaching before he had got off the phone to report the blaze.
He added: "Afterwards they covered the roof in their own sheets and let me keep them until I could start work on the repairs.
"Really in my life I've never met so many nice, friendly people.
"They checked everything to make sure it was OK.
"My wife was still upset the next day and could smell smoke while she was at home alone so they came again at 2pm, which reassured her. They said it was still their job."
Devon and Somerset Fire Authority needs to make £5.5million of savings due to a cut in its government grant.
One of the proposals is to replace the second full-time crew in Torquay with a retained or part-time crew. There will be no compulsory redundancies.
A three-month public consultation has begun prior to a final decision in the summer.
The Herald Express is calling on people to get involved and Stop The Fire Cuts.
Mr Atkinson fears axing a full-time crew would mean firefighters would not be able to offer the same level of service, however much they wanted to.
He says the people of Torquay will only realise what they have got when it is gone.
"All the firefighters who came that night were needed and were all busy doing something," he said.
"None of them were standing around. They were all working.
"I was surprised when I read the paper and saw they wanted to cut them.
"The problem is that people always think a fire won't happen to them. I was the same.
"You don't realise how much you need them and only really understand properly if it touches just you how important they are. I am very happy to support them and the Herald Express campaign."