The move to reassure residents came following a resident contacting me to say she had been told by a fire officer that as they had been called out twice, the service may charge next time, or not come at all, on the basis that residents needed to do more to protect themselves.

I wrote to the chief fire officer, Lee Howell to assure him that everything possible was being done to mitigate the flooding.  The full correspondence is below:……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Claire,

Thank you for raising this issue with us. Firstly I’d like to offer my sympathies to the residents of the Feniton area who sound like they have had a particularly difficult time recently as a result of the poor weather.

As discussed in our telephone conversation this morning, I’d like to offer residents my assurance that Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service’s policy regarding our response to flooding incidents has not changed, and that we will not charge to attend flooding incidents where property is affected and where there is a danger to occupants. However, I should add that in certain circumstances, particularly where we are experiences ‘spate’ conditions, it may be necessary for us to prioritise our response, in which case there may be a delay in our response other incidents.

Also, the fact that we have previously attended a property would have no bearing on the the type and level of our response.

Finally, I am pleased to note that residents have found our support to be helpful and I hope that this will remain the case.

I hope that you find this information to be helpful and I am happy for you to quote my comments in other correspondence.

Regards
Steve

Steve Widnell
Area Commander – Central Command
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service

From: Claire Wright
Sent: 24 January 2013 10:53
To: Lee Howell
Subject: Feniton and flooding

Dear Mr Howell

I am writing concerning the serious and ongoing flooding at Feniton.  The problem is serious in the centre of the village, as well as at xxxxxxx and xxxxxxx Cottages on the edge of the village, which have been flooded a staggering seven times since July 2012.  This is enormously stressful and distressing for Mr and Mrs xxxxx and Mr and Mrs xxxxx.

In the case of xxxxx and xxxxx Cottages the floodwater enters from a ditch behind the cottages which overflows.  The residents of both cottages are doing everything they can to prevent floodwater entering their properties and have bought pumps and have many sandbags etc surrounding their property.  The water comes in regardless, however.

EDDC and DCC are working to provide an urgent solution in advance of the full flood defence scheme planned for the village.  The urgent solution would entail widening and deepening the ditch behind the properties.  Landowners are being contacted to obtain permission to do the work.  The necessary funding has been allocated.

My reason for contacting you is that in desperation the residents of xxxxx Cottage have been forced to call out the fire brigade to help with pumping the water out.  This has been incredibly helpful, especially with the last deluge the weekend before last.

They were very worried to hear from fire officers though, that in future they may be charged or the response team may refuse to come, as they have been called out twice.

Clearly, this was very distressing to hear, on top of the worry they have each time the forecast is heavy rain.

I wanted to contact you and inform you about this, to let you know that everything possible is being done by the residents themselves and by EDDC and DCC.

Also, the flood defence scheme for the village has an 18 month timeframe allocated to it by DCC and EDDC.  EDDC have pledged £500,000 in this year’s budget and next week a bid will be presented to the DEFRA project appraisal board for a further £500,000.  Officers are hopeful of success.

Feniton Parish Council is also working with the Feniton Action Group to set up a flood warden scheme, which will involve an early warning system for residents, with drains being regularly checked and a more proactive system for providing sand and sandbags.

I note that tomorrow more heavy rain is forecast and anxiety levels are high once again…..

I would be grateful if you could provide an early reassurance to Feniton residents that in the interim – prior to the work on the ditch behind xxxxx and xxxxxx Cottages and prior to the flood defence scheme being put in place – that your officers will continue to provide their excellent service to Feniton residents, who are currently experiencing a very serious but hopefully temporary problem.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks for your support so far.

Best wishes
Claire