Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service plans cutbacks totalling £5.5million.

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The Fire Brigades Union is urging Devon residents to protest against “the most savage cuts ever” to local fire and rescue services.

The union issued its call as the media was being briefed on cutbacks in Devon and Somerset totalling £5.5million over two years.

Trevor French, the union’s Devon and Somerset secretary, said: “Rather than just accept these enormous cuts forced upon us by central government, the fire authority, along with chief fire officer Lee Howell, should tell the coalition government that this scale of cuts is unacceptable, risks destroying the fabric of this important service, and ultimately puts more lives at risk.

“As a rural service and one of the biggest in the country, Devon and Somerset have long argued that a ‘sparsity’ factor should be included in any grant settlement received.

“This would take into account the lack of neighbouring services for support and the sheer scale of area that has to be covered by one fire and rescue service.”

Bob Walker, the union’s chairman, said: “If the cuts proposed go through, there will be fewer firefighters, fewer fire stations and fewer fire engines.

“After the recent floods and fires firefighters have dealt with so professionally, the cuts would be a real kick in the teeth for both the public and the service.

“The FBU is asking people in our communities to stand up against damaging proposals for the fire and rescue service before it is too late.”

A 12-week public consultation will be launched after a fire authority meeting on January 18.

Midweek Herald reporter Katy Griffin is currently at the media briefing, taking place at the fire and rescue service’s headquarters near Exeter.

Updates to follow.

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