Flooding crisis 'shows dangers of cutting back on firefighters'
Westcountry firefighters' leaders have urged the Government to "wake up to the consequences of cuts" to the service in the wake of the recent floods.
Crews in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset worked long shifts to battle the onslaught of swollen rivers, bringing stranded residents to safety from homes and vehicles trapped in flood water.
Teams also dealt with landslides and large scale pumping operations.
According to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), in Devon and Somerset alone crews answered 1,357 emergency calls and rescued 218 people over five days.
FBU leaders said in a letter to politicians they expect recognition for the enormous demands placed on the capacity of the service and demanded any suggestion of cuts in frontline services are removed.
Tam McFarlane, spokesman for South West FBU said the floods had stretched the service to the limit. He said the Government was recently told by the Chief Fire Officers Association that proposed budget cuts would lead to more than 4,050 firefighter jobs cut, 60 fire stations closed, 150 fire appliances cut and 40 fire stations downgraded across England.
Mr McFarlane said: "The professionalism and commitment shown by members of the fire and rescue service during these devastating floods were there for all to see.
"Crews worked around the clock and in the most difficult of circumstances to serve the public and their communities. But it should be obvious to everyone that we are working to the limit and, in some cases, beyond.
"Large scale floods are becoming a regular feature of the work that we do and every region should have the necessary equipment and front-line, fire-fighting staff needed to deal with it effectively.
"This requires further investment and we have asked our MPs to raise these points with the Government as a matter of urgency.
"Everyone should now be able to see that cuts in the frontline fire service would lead to public safety being compromised, and any suggestion of these must now be removed."