Firefighters say they are “exhausted” as continued council cuts are straining the capabilities of fire services.

Hertfordshire Fire Brigade Union is calling an emergency meeting on Thursday (August 15) to discuss how to ‘save’ the county’s fire service.

Hertfordshire County Council voted on July 8 to adopt its ‘integrated risk management plan’ (IRMP), meaning the size of crews on traditional fire engines will drop from five to four.

Two smaller vehicles – a ‘rapid response vehicle’ and an ‘intermediate response vehicle’ – will be trialled at Watford and Berkhamsted fire stations, but plans to take away one of the two traditional fire engines based at Watford fire station during the trial have been dropped.

The FBU claims fire engines regularly stand idle as there are not enough firefighters to crew them. The recent serious fire at the Warner Brothers studio in Leavesden exhausted all fire service resources across the county, as firefighters were asked to work in arduous conditions for up to twelve hours without a break.

Among failings, it says fire engines and specialist vehicles are regularly taken out of service due to a lack of crew, control room staff face daily IT faults, and staff and firefighters are asked to work hundreds of overtime hours, with firefighters expected to work consecutive 24-hour shifts.

It says there has also been an increase in resignations due to the pressure put on staff, with more staff injured and loss of funding for vital training and equipment.

Derek MacLeod, the union chairman of the Hertfordshire Fire Brigade, said: “Throughout the 15 years of cuts we have experienced, firefighters have been saying that the day will come when the devastating effect of those cuts will be seen by all.

“Well, that day has come and gone and now Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service is clearly at crisis point.”

He added: “If the public want a fire engine when they are in trouble, now is the time to step forward, support local firefighters and send a strong message to politicians that we will not stand by and just watch while they dismantle our vital public service.”

Mr MacLeod explained that firefighters were recently left exhausted after being forced to work up to twelve hours when a fire broke out at Warner Bros studios in Leavesden, on July 11.

Cllr Colin Woodward, the deputy cabinet member for community safety, has previously said: “Our Integrated Risk Management Plan is not a cuts programme as the FBU (Fire Brigade Union) states, but is a programme which allows us to use our resources in a different way.

“Claims that the fire service is at crisis point, ‘threatening the safety and lives of the public’ are untrue and unhelpful, as are comments that vehicles are regularly taken out of service.”

The deputy cabinet member added: “There are occasions due to illness, vehicle servicing, etc, when engines are off the road. However, we trust our officers to ensure that the right amount of fire cover is in place to mitigate these situations, and the professionals that work in our fire control room are constantly managing fire cover across a whole range of incidents.”