FIREFIGHTERS will be hitting the streets of Torbay over the coming weeks taking the 'Stop the Fire Cuts' message to the public.
The consultation into plans by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to cut a full-time crew in Torquay is running until April 22.
Firefighters bitterly opposed to the planned cuts say the coming weeks will be crucial in persuading the service to think again about axing a Torquay crew.
A final decision will be made in the summer and the Herald Express is urging people to sign its petition against the proposals.
Firefighters will be in the town centre and St Marychurch this week as part of the campaign.
The fire service needs to make £5.5million of cuts over the next two years to make up for a funding shortfall.
One its proposals is to replace the second full-time pump in Torquay with a part-time crew.
Although nobody will be made redundant, the number of full-time firefighters will drop from 52 to 28, with staff being moved to other duties.
Firefighters in Torquay want the public to be in no doubt about what this will mean.
A firefighter in Torbay, who did not want to be named, said: "We have always had two full-time fire appliances in Torquay and there is a fear lives will be put at risk because these proposed cuts will cause delays.
"At the moment, if there is a fire call you get two pumps instantly — with a combined crew of up to 10 — so that at the most critical time, when we first arrive, the officer in charge will have firefighters to go in if there are people reported and to take the action needed to save lives, rescue people and reduce damage.
"If we have to get an 'on-call' crew it will cause major delays.
"It doesn't matter how the senior management sugar-coat this, the second pump is going to be delayed and if there are persons reported that could mean lives are lost."
Torbay councillor Jenny Faulkner is backing the campaign. She said: "We are a growing town with new hotels, offices and workplaces being built and I have serious concerns about these cuts.
"Firefighters don't only deal with fires they go to road accidents and flooding. What happens when you have one crew savings lives in a fire and there is another incident? "You will have to get retained firemen from their work to the second machine which will take longer." The service says cuts must be made because the alternatives would be to put up council tax or close stations.
It says the changes will deliver improved safety as well as savings.
Over the next two years it will receive 18 per cent less money from Government. Crewing changes are also proposed at stations in Plymouth, Taunton and Ilfracombe.
DEVON and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service could merge with a neighbouring service to make up for its reduced budget.
The service is in talks with Avon Fire and Rescue Service about a possible merger or different ways of working together.
Devon and Somerset's chief fire officer Lee Howell is leading the discussions. No decisions have been made. The fire authority has also decided to increase its council tax precept by 1.99 per cent for 2013/14. The Fire Brigades' Union had been asking for an increase of 24 per cent to bridge the funding gap and avoid proposed cuts.