LIVES are being put at risk in St Helens due to a cut in the number of hours that fire engines are crewed, according to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The warning comes after Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service announced that fire engines at Eccleston will no longer be staffed by whole time fire crews between the hours 8.30pm to 8.30am.

Instead, the engines will be transferred to the Retained Duty System whereby firefighters are called in from home to respond to emergencies within 30-minutes.

Kevin Hughes, brigade secretary of the FBU in Merseyside, said: “These dangerous cuts could cost lives.

"In the Eccleston, St Helens and Newton-le-Willows area of Merseyside, only one engine will be immediately available during the night.

"It is a shocking state of affairs and should worry everyone in our community.

"If two incidents are called in at the same time or if there is a major emergency requiring multi-engine response, it will inevitably cause delays in getting firefighters to the scene of the incident.

“The speed and weight of response is crucial when it comes to saving lives and limiting the spread of a fire.

"If we don’t get this right it means the work the firefighters can do to save lives is severely curtailed. It puts the public, as well as the firefighters themselves, at greater risk of serious injury or even worse.

“For the sake of public safety, the government need to reverse the damaging cuts to the fire service which are putting Merseyside communities at risk.”

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service added: "These proposals are a direct response to the ongoing cuts to Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority’s budget, which continue until 2020.

"It is the least worst option available to the Authority in order to manage the cuts.

“Retained crews will be called to duty overnight if the number of fire appliances drops below a predetermined level, in order to provide support and resilience.

"Immediate response to incidents occurring overnight on the Eccleston station area will be made from St Helens Community Fire Station as the key station in the St Helens Local Authority area, supported by Prescot, Newton-le-Willows and Kirkby Community Fire Stations.

"The fire appliance at Eccleston will relocate to the new St Helens fire station which is planned to be built on the Pilkingtons site at Watson Street."