A SCOTTISH fire brigade is sending under-strength crews to emergencies because of budget cuts, it emerged today.
Current guidelines say at least two fire engines carrying nine firefighters between them should turn out to at least 75% of 999 calls.
But Fife Fire and Rescue has regularly missed that target for much of 2011, sending full-strength crews to only 65% of fires, accidents and rescues.
Firefighters are having to call in crews from other parts of the region, potentially increasing the risk to the public.
The brigade’s operating manager, Iain Vincent, told a council meeting they were finding it difficult to “adequately staff all firefighting appliances” as deeper cuts are being made.
He said: “There are still a significant number of occasions where the initial response to an incident may have fewer fire fighters than the recognised standard.
“It is accepted that on these occasions, due to the delay in the full weight of operational response, the potential exists that social risk could increase slightly from the effects and impact of fire.
Fife Fire Brigade Union chief Graeme Birtley blamed a recruitment freeze for the shortage of fire fighters.
He said: “Because there is a recruitment freeze and because of budget cuts over the last five years, we’re getting to the stage where we’re having problems maintaining the correct level of fire fighters in a fire engine.
“Because we turn up at an incident one short it means we can’t carry out all the tasks that we might have to do to bring the incident to a satisfactory conclusion.”
He added: “We may mobilise further resources…which means a fire engine from another part of the county comes to give support. There’s a time delay…and that time delay could then have an impact on bringing the incident to a satisfactory conclusion.”
In a bid to reduce the impact of minimal staff, a pre-planned overtime schedule will be put into place to cover members of staff who are off sick.