A COMMUNITY is fighting to keep its fire engine, warning plans to bring in a smaller vehicle with less crew will diminish the service’s ability to carry out safe rescues.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue is planning to replace the existing engine at Masham - which needs four or more crew - with a Tactical Response Vehicle which can be crewed with three.

Managers say it will actually mean an increase in the times when the appliance can be used because it can operate with less crew.

Amid rising concern, a public meeting has been called on December 17 in Masham Town Hall. The Town Council has objected to the downgrading.

In a statement they say: “Our concerns are it will have a significant effect on the fire and rescue cover provided in the area where we have a number of large and small commercial businesses and a vast number of places of accommodation with sleeping risks.

“There is great concern in this rural community at this proposed downgrade.

“It is strongly felt it’s an unacceptable compromise with our safety. We feel we are being provided with a lesser level of cover than towns such as Harrogate although still paying the same taxes for this service.”

Their campaign to maintain the existing engine is backed by the Fire Brigades Union who say the smaller vehicles will only be able to respond to a strict and limited number of incidents.

Simon Wall, union organiser, said: “The service desperately needs investment to solve the availability issues and protect frontline services, masking the problem is not the answer.”

A spokesperson for the fire service said: “Four of our on-call fire stations including Masham often have three crew available and cannot respond to incidents as our minimum crewing for a standard fire engine is four.

“We are planning to use a different type of engine at these stations, to increase the times when they are available to respond.” He added that the smaller vehicles carry high specification equipment designed to be operated by fewer firefighters.