Devon

Devon and Somerset Fire information refusal unlawful

Firefighters with a ladder
Image caption The Information Commissioner's Office said the decision was unlawful and the service had 35 days to release the information

A fire service has been told its refusal to release risk assessments for its new fire engines breached freedom of information law.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service replaced some engines with smaller ones, which have less equipment and shorter ladders, in September.

It argued that the information was commercially sensitive and it could compromise personal data.

The Information Commissioner's Office said the service had 35 days to comply.

The service was also told to disclose the "final evaluation scores" of the new engines compared with the other vehicles it considered for purchase.

A public campaign against the shorter ladders has resulted in longer ladders being added to the 15 rapid intervention vehicles (RIVs) so that they can reach the second floor of a burning building.

Critics say they remain significantly less capable than the traditional appliances they are replacing - with less than half the water capacity, shorter hoses and fewer breathing apparatus kits.

Image caption Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has recently introduced 15 rapid intervention vehicles (RIVs)

Devon and Somerset previously said the new vehicles could reach incidents quicker than larger appliances, that they have all the equipment needed for first response, and that larger appliances could be sent if required.

But it also said it had to save at least £7.7m over three years and the new vehicles are £140,000 cheaper than the traditional engines.

"We are working with the Information Commissioner's Office to ensure we are complying with the legislation and providing all the information that should be in the public domain," a spokesman for the fire service said.

"We have a number of rapid intervention vehicles now operating very successfully within the service and early indications are that they are a useful addition to our fleet."

The RIVs are currently at fire stations in Princetown, Dartmouth, Tiverton, Porlock, Newton Abbot, Budleigh Salterton, Woolacombe, Tavistock, Williton and Okehampton.

Two more will be introduced in June and July, two are currently being used as reserves, and one is being held for training.

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