THE CRUCIAL response time for firefighters to reach emergency incidents across the region hit a 10-year high. 

Government data revealed it took Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) an average of 10 minutes and 46 seconds to respond to incidents and an average of one minute and 17 seconds to handle calls.  

Salisbury Journal: DWFRS fire engineDWFRS fire engine (Image: Newsquest)

The figures include the time spent on the phone reporting the incident, the crew’s preparation, and their journey. The response time was up on 10 minutes and 28 seconds the year before.

Read more: Burned buildings, secret rooms and a passion for photography

Deputy chief fire officer Derek James said: “As a predominantly rural service, the majority of our firefighters are on-call firefighters who live and sometimes work within the local community. They do a fantastic job.

“As a service, we need to support them by balancing their operational cover with their home and work-life commitments. Much like any other rural fire and rescue service, our staffing levels do vary on a day-to-day basis.”

DWFRS has been ranked 31 out of 44 fire services in England for response times.

Listen: Insider knowledge on Stonehenge

In the year to March 2023, the fire service attended 1,726 primary fires - those with the most serious threat to life or property. This was 67 more incidents than the year before and attended 679 dwelling fires and 381 road vehicle fires.

In 2022, across England, the number of primary fires increased in comparison to the year before as the warm dry weather caused more wildfires.

Read more: A plan to turn a pub into flats and a house was a surprise to the manager

Across the country, the average response time in the year ending to March was nine minutes and 13 seconds — the longest seen since comparable statistics became available. The Fire Brigades Union criticised the Government for not investing enough in the services as “every second counts in a fire”.

FBU assistant general secretary, Ben Selby, said: “Firefighters do everything they can to keep the public safe, but with fewer firefighters, fewer fire stations and fewer fire engines, it is no wonder that response times are deteriorating.”

He added: “Years of brutal government cuts to the fire service are having a clear detrimental impact on public safety. Every second counts in a fire. It is about time that the government stopped counting pennies and invested in our fire service to protect people.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government is committed to ensuring fire services have the resources they need to keep us safe, and overall fire and rescue authorities will receive around £2.6 billion in 2023-24. Decisions on how their resources are best deployed to meet their core functions are a matter for each fire and rescue authority.”