LIVES will be put at risk because of "crazy" plans to reduce cover at Rawdon fire station, it has been claimed this week.

The Wharfedale Observer can reveal that from August, the station will operate a day crewing system, with staff based on the premises only between 8am and 5pm.

They will respond to calls during the night from home in a system similar to retained stations at Otley and Ilkley.

The move has drawn strong criticism from firefighters, who are warning the consequences could be potentially catastrophic, with the very real risk lives will be lost because of a 50 per cent reduction in staff and extra minutes spent getting to emergencies.

West Yorkshire Fire Brigade Union secretary, Dave Williams, described the change as "incredibly dangerous", adding response times in Rawdon at night could go up from one minute to more than six minutes.

He stressed: "The risk is higher at night.

"More people die in house fires at night; more people are involved in road traffic collisions at night. Any delay in the response time at night is a bad thing – not only to the people involved but, of course, to our fire crews."

He stressed an extra few minutes could make a huge difference in allowing a fire to develop , endangering the lives of the public and of fire crews.

"There will be an immediate increase in response times of five minutes," he said. "A fire will have developed quite substantially in five minutes.

"The Fire Brigades Union tagline is 'minutes matter' and they really do – it is not a flippant statement. A fire will double in size within a minute – you can imagine how serious this is. You would not believe what happens from zero to five minutes – it is phenomenal."

Another member of the fire service, who asked not to be named, described the changes as a "very scary proposition", adding:"I feel as though I need to tell people they are in danger."

He argued the cuts at Rawdon will affect people throughout the wider area, especially as Otley and Ilkley are both retained fire stations and the Cookridge station is being moved to a site further away.

He added: "People will say the Wharfe Valley is a low-risk area, but being in a low-risk area doesn't stop fire deaths happening."

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said Rawdon will be the sixth fire station in West Yorkshire to operate a day crewing system.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Steve Rhodes, said: "The number of incidents firefighters respond to at Rawdon has decreased during the past few years.

"The day crewing system is appropriate to the risk and number of incidents that occur in Rawdon and surrounding areas."

He added: "During the quieter night-time period, if there is a 999 call, they will respond from their home, which must

be within a five-minute radius of the station.

"The average difference in the time it takes firefighters to turn-out from station during the night, between a day-crewed station and a whole-time station, is two minutes and 44 seconds.

"The day crewing system does require less staff than whole-time fire stations but it offers an appropriate level of fire cover and offers a sustainable system for the future."

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