POOR parking in narrow lanes could cost lives, the fire service has said.

Matt Kiddell, Blue Watch manager at Christchurch Fire Station, said his crew’s fire engine was blocked by parked cars in Avon Buildings, off Bargates in Christchurch, as they responded to a call on Wednesday last week.

They had been tasked to help paramedics gain access to a home at the end of the cul-de-sac. Although the obstructive cars were parked in marked bays, there was still not enough space between them for the fire engine to pass.

“Fortunately the crew was able to run down with the equipment on foot and there were no adverse consequences,” said Mr Kiddell.

“But if it had been a fire there would have been a significant delay running the hoses down before search and rescue could begin, with very severe consequences.

“Had it been a property fire there would have been no way we could get water carrier engines and crews with breathing apparatus to the incident.

“Seconds do count in life-threatening situations.”

While fire service crews do have legal authority to move obstructive cars, doing so wastes precious time and in some cases is not possible with the equipment to hand, Mr Kiddell said. The service would rather drivers checked when parking that emergency vehicles can pass.

The crew at Christchurch have estimated that a gap of 10 feet and two inches, or just over three metres, is needed for an average-sized fire engine to get by.

“We want drivers to consider when they are parked whether a fire engine could get through the gap,” said Mr Kiddell.

“We are particularly concerned about some narrow roads in Christchurch and in Pokesdown, but this is a problem in Springbourne, Westbourne and across Dorset.

“I think the gap in Avon Buildings is too narrow for even an ambulance to get through, fortunately last week they had a car.

“And Riverlea Road, for example, is even worse, we can’t even get our Land Rover down there.

“A lot of people think narrow roads are an issue for rural crews, but it is just as problematic for us in urban areas.”

The service has produced a checklist for drivers to bear in mind:

  •  Park close to the kerb
  • Leave extra room near tight corners and never park right on a junction
  • Don’t ignore double yellow lines, they are often placed to provide turning space
  • Fold in wing mirrors and ensure wheels are straight
  • Check, is there enough space for a fire engine to pass

A spokesman for Dorset County Council said the authority is investigating the parking spaces in Avon Buildings to see what it can do to resolve the problem.

The road was the scene of a major blaze in August 2009 which claimed the life of 80-year-old Marie-Noelle Holliday.

An inquest the following year heard she was thought to have been overcome by smoke while investigating the fire, which started in a kitchen appliance.

Her family praised her neighbours for their community spirit.