Thousands of firefighter jobs have been cut in the past decade, leaving the total at a new low, a report claims.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said one in five roles have been lost since 2010 across the UK, reducing by 11,680.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “After years of huge government cuts and staffing falls there is a real threat that fire and rescue services may not be able to deal with every incident and fight all fires.
“For example, we have heard senior service managers state that the public should lower their expectations that large wildfires can be tackled.
“The cuts are weakening the day-to-day work of the fire and rescue service in every single area; they are making people less safe.
“They also pose a threat to the ability to respond to large-scale incidents – particularly if more than one were to occur at the same time.
“Households deserve to feel protected. We all want to be able to walk past fire stations and know that there are enough people in there to protect us.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Firefighters work tirelessly every day to protect our communities and the Government has consistently given them the resources they need to keep people safe.
“In the last year, nearly 3,000 new firefighters have been recruited across the country and the Government has invested £2.3 billion to support their lifesaving work.”
The FBU said responses from Freedom of Information requests showed that since 2010 more than 8,000 wholetime firefighters’ jobs have gone, out of the 11,680 total.
London has 1,112 fewer firefighters than 2010, with falls of 615 in West Yorkshire, 631 in Greater Manchester, 551 in Devon and Somerset and 470 in the West Midlands, said the union.
The FBU added that response times across all types of fires in England have increased since 2010, while fire audit and home fire safety checks have fallen.
Labour’s London Assembly fire and resilience spokesperson Anne Clarke said: “As their numbers have dwindled, our firefighters have been pushed to their limits in recent years – from dealing with the trauma of the Grenfell tragedy and subsequent building safety scandal to supporting communities during increasingly frequent floods and going above and beyond during the pandemic and helping our overwhelmed NHS by driving ambulances.
“The stark truth is that the Government’s sustained cuts to the London Fire Brigade are weakening its ability to meet the urgent challenges presented by the growing building safety crisis and climate emergency.”