Fears lives could be put at risk by plans to reduce size of South Yorkshire fire crews
A union has warned lives could be put at risk by plans to cut the number of firefighters on-board engines in South Yorkshire.
The number of firefighters on-board fire engines serving South Yorkshire could be reduced from five to four in a cost-cutting measure.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority is considering the move as the the service needs to find up to £4 million a year from its annual budget.
But the Fire Brigades Union warned the safety of both firefighters and members of the public could be put at risk if the proposals go ahead.
Regional secretary Neil Carbutt described the plans as “devastating for firefighters” and added: “At present you are supposed to have two fire engines containing nine firefighters at a house fire at least.
“But if crews are reducing to four then it would need three fire engines coming, some from further away, so as a result this will mean longer response times.
“A reduction will ultimately mean firefighters and the public will be less safe.”
He urged members of the public to lobby their councillors to call for a re-think over the plans.
The fire authority stressed the only alternative to making the change from five to four is to reduce the speed of its 999 response during the night time period from up to half of its fire stations.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson said: “We’d rather not make any changes at all, but have a duty to match our resources to local risk and to manage the service in a financially responsible way.
“We face cost pressures of up to £4 million and the extent of the savings required is inevitably going to mean changes to the way we provide our 999 service to the public.
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“We think it is better to reduce the number of firefighters on a fire engine, than it is to slow down our response times by reducing the number of fire engines which are immediately available.
“Our fire engines already attend incidents with four firefighters about a third of the time - and many other UK fire services already ride with four as a norm.”
The service said the multi-million pound shortfall is because it is no longer able to use a way of staffing fire stations called ‘close proximity crewing’.
This staffing method was last year declared unlawful after the Fire Brigades Union took the case to the High Court.
The shifts meant firefighters could work 96 hours of continuous duty, with nights spent at their station.
A judge ruled the shift system breached EU Working Time Regulations
The fire service added that it is also looking at different options because it may have to meet a significant, national shortfall in pension contributions.
The plans will be considered by fire authority members at a meeting in Barnsley Town Hall on Monday, April 8.
If approved, the plans will then be consulted on with members of the public.