Plans to cut the number of firefighters

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Fears have been raised about proposals to reduce the number of firefighters across Greater Manchester.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is worried lives could be put at risk under plans to cut the number of firefighters by 285.

It is part of Greater Manchester Fire And Rescue Service’s Efficiency Plan, as it looks to save £14.79m by 2020.

The FBU says this means there will be just over 1,000 firefighters left - less than half of the number 10 years ago.

There are also plans to cut the number of fire engines. While Wigan will not lose any, a fire engine at nearby Farnworth could be removed.

Off-duty firefighters would be recalled to deal with large incidents such as the Wharfside fire in Wigan last year.

Gary Keary, secretary of the FBU in Greater Manchester, said: “This is terrible news for firefighters and the public alike. Nationally, response times to emergency incidents are at their slowest in 20 years. Last year, Greater Manchester saw an increase in fires, deaths and injuries - a tragic trend that continues. Now is the time to be investing in this vital service, not cutting it.

“We urge the service and local politicians to think again about these drastic frontline cuts that will undoubtedly lead to lives being lost.”

The changes are being proposed after reductions in Government funding.

Assistant County Fire Officer Dave Keelan, who leads on emergency response at the fire service, said: “Under the current shift system, that equates to about 285 less firefighters available throughout the county. This will impact on fire cover, response times and our service as a whole.

“The Fire Brigades Union is right when they say fires and deaths from fires are rising. It is a challenging time for us and we have been talking to local people in the last few months to consult with them about how we move forward to meet their needs.”

The plans will be considered by the fire authority at their meeting tomorrow.