THE fire service in Oxfordshire is driving into the 21st century thanks to a new fleet of ‘state of the art’ fire engines.

Equipped with the next generation of firefighting technology, the new vehicles, which were unveiled at Abingdon Airfield on Thursday, promise a more effective service as well as savings for the taxpayer.

A collaboration between three services working across the Thames Valley, the project will boost their partnership work across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

Oxfordshire county councillor and cabinet member for the fire service, Judith Heathcoat, said: “It’s great news for the public and for the fire service.

"Maintaining a fleet of state of the art vehicles means firefighters can continue to deliver a really good service.

“It is an excellent example of public sector collaboration which is not only an effective and efficient way of working, but a moral duty to help protect the communities we serve.

"It further embeds shared working practices and allows us to better align our response to ensure our communities receive an effective response no matter which side of the county border they live in.”

She said other services may be able to copy the model created by the partnership, adding: "Other services could emulate what we’ve done because it is a superb example of collaboration.”

Thirty-seven new machines, four of which are due to take to Oxfordshire’s roads in the next few weeks, will be rolled out to Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service over the next four years.

The 15-tonne vehicles boast longer hoses, a more powerful pump as well as added comfort for firefighters.

Tools used to cut people from damaged vehicles after crashes will now be battery powered, meaning the firefighter operating the equipment will no longer be tethered by a cable.

All of the engines have a plastic body which makes them lighter and more efficient, a feature that also allows for better weight distribution, improving the vehicle’s stability.

The firefighting machines have been made as universal as possible so crews across the three services can operate each other’s.

They also all have automatic transmissions, while existing engines have manual gearboxes.

Each engine costs about £250,000 but the services bought them in bulk and estimate this will save £720,000 overall.

Area manager for the Oxfordshire service, David Haycock, said the project had provided a win for firefighters, the taxpayer, and residents across the three counties.

He said there were some challenges to be overcome when the forces first came together.

He added: "There were some challenges around specific issues but people were able to keep the bigger picture, so they could compromise and stand their ground while pushing the whole thing forward."

The services have worked together since the establishment of a shared Thames Valley Fire Control Service and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2015.

Fifteen engines have been ordered in the first year, with Oxfordshire's four engines to be based in Oxford, Bicester, Wantage and Thame.