Plans to roll out new and smaller fire engines across Hampshire’s fire service have taken another step forward.
A third of traditionally sized engines are due to be replaced by smaller and faster vehicles over the next three years, in a bid to save £450,000.
The first Intermediate Capability (IC) engines were trialled on the streets of Basingstoke back in October, while the even more slimline First Response Capability (FRC) vehicles are now being piloted in Alton for the first time.
Unlike the IC vehicles, the smaller engine only requires two crew members to operate it, while it also provides even better manoeuvrability on the roads – allowing on-call stations to attend incidents that they might not be able to otherwise.
Firefighters will evaluate the new engines while out on the job, while they will later also be rolled out to Kingsclere Fire Station to trial.
Response delivery station manager, Gina Gray, said: “The new vehicle allows us to send an on-call crew out with two or three people, instead of being off-the-run if we don’t have four people available.
“Until now, a fire engine would have to be called in from farther away to deal with an incident, whereas now we can attend and get to nearby incidents.
“This is an additional vehicle to the fleet, not a replacement, and it will improve firefighter availability at retained stations.”
As well as normal gear, the first response vehicle will also be equipped with brand new equipment, such as thermal imaging cameras, the immediate emergency care pack, and an ultra-high pressure lance.
And HFRS Deputy Chief Officer, Neil Odin, expressed his confidence in the new addition to the proposed three-tier fleet of fire engines.
He said: “I am extremely pleased to see the launch of this pilot vehicle, which reflects the hard work and ingenuity of our teams, who have designed it with front line crews.
“This is part of an array of new technology and strategies that will keep our firefighters safer, and help them deliver a faster, more effective service to the public.”
The faster vehicles and £1.5m investment in new equipment are being introduced, in a bid to deal with the loss of manpower caused by the service cutting 215 firefighting posts countywide.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority chairman, Chris Carter, added: “The rollout of these vehicles marks an exciting new chapter in the fire service’s history.
“As an authority, we are proud of our involvement, and the pioneering strategies and tactics this new vehicle will support.
“The FRC, and other initiatives, is among the reasons HFRS is one of the best in the country.”