HUNDREDS of people joined a march to protest against proposals to close Porlock Fire Station.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has launched a public consultation on various proposals designed to save money and reflect the modern needs of the population it covers.

The proposals include the possibility of closing Porlock fire station within the Exmoor National Park, as well as reducing the number of fire engines being crewed at Bridgwater, Martock, Taunton and Yeovil.

Somerset County Gazette:

Yesterday (Thursday, July 25) DSFRS representatives were due in Porlock for a drop-in consultation event, and were met with hundreds of protestors with banners, placards, songs and even stilt walkers to show their support for keeping the station open.

Cllr Andy Milne was one of those who spoke before the protest set off from the fire station, winding its way up through the village to the Village Hall.

"It takes 20 minutes to travel from Minehead to Porlock on a good day, whereas our firefighters can currently get to incidents in a matter of minutes, that delay could be crucial," Cllr Milne said.

"And that is before you get on to the likes of Exmoor and Porlock Hill where it takes time and local knowledge is so important.

"Exmoor itself is drying out and with climate change moor fires are on the rise - if Exmoor goes up in flames it will be a devastating to an area which relies on tourism.

"There are also 87 thatch houses within the Porlock area which are at risk, we have a very elderly population and co-responders are so important."

At the drop-in Cllr Milne handed over a petition to save the fire station with 3,500 signatures on it.

Not only did the protest contain a large number of Porlock residents, but also had the backing of representatives from Allerford, Luccombe, and Minehead among others.

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger also addressed the crowd saying he had talked to new Prime Minister Boris Johnson - whose family home near Dulverton falls in the Devon and Somerset area - about the plans.

Somerset County Gazette:

"This needs sorting out, this is another example of authorities being dismissive to rural areas, we need to keep fighting, and making ourselves awkward," Mr Liddell-Grainger said.

As the protest set off there were cries of an alternate version of London Burning, with campaigners singing out: "Porlock's burning, Porlock's burning, fetch the engines, fetch the engines, fire, fire! fire, fire! They're in Minehead, they're in Minehead."

Somerset County Gazette:

Porlock Fire Station watch manager Chris Horne said he was massively overwhelmed by the support the team had received.

"It is very humbling. But Porlock Fire Station is a big part of the community and you do not get community spirit as strong as this in many places," Mr Horne said.

"I would urge everyone to fill in the consultation and say why they want Porlock Fire Station to say as it is that which could really make a difference."

Caroline Bickerstaff lives in Caversham near Bossington. "On December 1st, there were reports of a hedge fire next to our home.

"The Porlock crew were at the scene within 12 minutes and found the fire was actually a fully developed property fire and requested backup from Minehead.

"These are old properties with people asleep either side who were unaware of what was going on.

"The crew managed to get it under control but if we had to wait for a fire engine from Minehead there is a good chance that fire could have been fatal."

Porlock Parish Council chairman Cllr Malcolm McCoy added: "These cuts are so illogical. This is, by DSFRS's own reckoning, the best fire station in Devon and Somerset last year, and they are exemplary of the family spirit, skills and dedication required by firefighters.

Dr Ian Kelham, a retired doctor from Porlock, emphasised that losing co-responders would be a disaster for the village and surrounding area.

"I was the doctor here until very recently and the co-responders were my cavalry," Dr Kelham said.

"We have an aging population here and it could take up to 60 minutes for an ambulance to arrive but having the co-responders here was of enormous value and I am certain my successors feel the same way."

Somerset County Gazette:

Joe Hassell, DSFRS area manager responded to queries saying there were change in demands, and that some areas were over-resourced while others were under-resourced.

"We have done a number of these drop-ins but this is definitely the most passionate protest I have come across," Mr Hassell said.

"The issue isn't about money but using our resources more efficiently.

"Demand is changing. The number of fires we are called to has dropped by 59 per cent in the last 17 years and the number of road traffic incidents we attend has dropped significantly too.

"It is credit to the firefighters that Porlock is so safe now. We can redeploy our resources to areas with more urgent need and invest in education and prevention which makes a huge difference."

To fill in the consultation go to