A FIREFIGHTING vehicle designed for reaching heights has been removed from Llandrindod Wells Fire Station as it has reached its “end of life”.

On Monday, the fire station took to social media to share the news that its aerial ladder platform (ALP) will be removed by the end of the week. However, it was removed from the fire station the next day, leaving the whole of Powys without an aerial appliance.

“Less than 24 hours after being told that our ALP was being removed, it’s gone! Didn’t even make it until the end of the week,” Llandrindod firefighters said on Twitter. 

“Great loss to the communities it served. Thank you to everyone who supported our fight to keep it. We tried but sadly failed.”

The County Times first reported on the potential loss of the ALP back in August last year, with a local firefighter warning that it would create a “black spot” for the entirety of Mid Wales and risk the safety of both firefighters and the public.

The plans to remove the firefighting vehicle, instead of replacing it, were down to funding issues.

The “black spot” would be created because of a lack of other aerial ladder platforms nearby. The firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous, said that it would take other ALPs “well over an hour to get to us”.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MWWFRS) has three other aerial rescue provisions. There are modern aerial ladder platforms based at Swansea West and Haverfordwest Fire Stations and an older model, like the one in Llandrindod Wells, at Aberystwyth Fire Station.

There is also an ALP in Hereford, which is part of a different fire and rescue service, but often serves in Mid Wales. There are reports that the Hereford Station could lose its ALP too, causing even more concern that Mid Wales could be left without cover.

The ALP could move to Worcester, which the Llandrindod Wells firefighter said “wouldn’t affect Hereford”, as it is nearby, but would impact the Mid Wales area.

The firefighter said: “We don’t need it in an hours time, we need it there and then.”

The Llandrindod Wells ALP has been used at a number a large fires, including the large hotel fire in Aberystwyth and at the Dolgerddon Hall fire in Rhayader, last year.

“It’s not used every day but when it is used it saves lives. It’s an asset and if we lose it it’s putting a lot of people at risk, and firefighters as well,” the firefighter said.

Kirsty Williams, Liberal Democrat AM for Brecon and Radnorshire, said: “When the possible loss of the platform came to light I raised concerns with the fire authority over what it could mean for people’s safety. Many people approached me with real concern, and I have no doubt that the confirmation will come as extremely disappointing news. 

“There are significant distances to alternative platforms and it seems less likely our local firefighters will have access to the equipment they need.”
Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour set up petitions to save the ALP.

The firefighters at the station have also been giving people ‘ALP rides’ to raise money, such as two weeks ago when the County Times covered ‘Pink Week’, where three Powys towns ‘Turned Pink’ to raise money for Cancer Research.

A spokeswoman for MWWFRS said: “We can confirm that the aerial ladder platform, located at Llandrindod Wells Fire Station has been removed from operational service.

“The aerial had reached its end of life and the ongoing costs of maintaining the vehicle had become prohibitive.

“The decision to reduce the service’s aerial capability from four to three appliances, was taken by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority in 2012. Further data and risk analysis undertaken recently, continues to support the decision taken and identifies Swansea, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion Command as the most effective locations for the disposition of aerial appliances for the whole service area.

“We would like to reassure the local communities that Powys will continue to have access to an aerial appliance, along with other specialist rescue appliances and equipment, to assist with the effective and efficient resolution of any incident. The location of these specialist vehicles is based on the wider need of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service area, covering 12,000km2 with a variety of risks.”

Here are some of the fires Llandrindod’s ALP has been called to this year (with comments from Llandrindod firefighters on Twitter):

  • April 27: Assisting Newtown firefighters at a chimney fire in Clatter, near Caersws. “Working at height made easy at a property with difficult access.” Newtown said: “Aerial appliance used to improve crew safety, rather than pitching ladders in windy conditions.”
  • April 13: Unsafe structure over a footpath in Llandrindod. “This appliance is worth its weight in gold.”
  • April 10: Roof fire in the Hundred House area, with Builth Fire Station.
  • March 16: Assisting Knighton with a dangerous structure.
  • March 14: Property fire in the Llangunllo area.
  • February 3: Chimney fire in the Glasbury area. “Always ready to assist our colleagues across Mid & West Wales and over the border if required.”
  • January 5: Assisting Newtown and Montgomery Fire Stations with a chimney fire with difficult access in Newtown. “The ALP ensured crew safety while dealing with the incident.” Montgomery Fire Station said the ALP was an “absolute saving grace at chimney fires with restricted access”.