HEREFORDSHIRE will have two full-time fire crews on standby until September at least.

Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority (HWFRA) has this morning (Mon) deferred a decision on cutting full-time 999 cover out of Hereford fire station down to a single crew.

On a 13-12 vote, the decision will now go back to HWFRA in September.

Thousands put their names to a petition launched by Hereford fire fighters to support keeping the second crew.

That petition was, in turn, put to HWFRA this morning.

Members had been due to debate removing the station’s second whole time appliance completely or replacing it with a second retained appliance.

Today's decision means Ledbury and Tenbury keep their two retained appliances while the stations at Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Bromyard and Whitchurch stay as is.

All the proposed changes came with deferral  options of between 2-5 years had HWFRA supported using reserve funds to keep either retained or full-time appliances at stations.

Members have been told that available reserves would only keep a second whole-time crew at Hereford  for 4-5 months while other options had the potential to save thousands of pounds towards an overall £767k savings target.

HWFRA already accepts that the cuts will compromise response times, but, maintains that, with the retained crews, enough back up is in place.

The petition also called for a referendum on whether one full-time appliance on  24/7 emergency standby at their station is enough.

Many of those to have signed said they were prepared to pay more in the council tax precept raised by the fire authority to keep current 999 cover.

An even bigger majority were unaware that a public consultation exercise on the issue had been concluded by HWFRA.

On this basis, the FBU calls the consultation process a “failure”.

The extent of proposed cuts to fire cover in the county - part of a cuts package applying across the whole HWFRA area - has been outlined previously by the Hereford Times.

As proposed,  full-time 24/7  first response fire and rescue fire cover at Hereford fire station would come down to a single appliance and no more than seven fire fighters on a shift.

Those seven - presuming all are present - would be the full-time 999 response for the whole county, including the manning of specialist appliances, with Malvern as the nearest full-time back-up.

The specialist options on standby at Hereford are an aerial ladder, an incident response unit, a Land Rover 4x4, an ultra heavy rescue vehicle, a water rescue team and a water rescue vehicle.