FIREFIGHTERS who feared lives would be put at risk over plans to reduce the crewing numbers in Malton have welcomed a u-turn by the North Yorkshire Fire Authority.

Concerns had been raised that plans to crew the new Tactical Response Vehicles (TRVs) with two or three firefighters could put the local community at risk.

However, following a meeting between Ryedale MP Kevin Hollinrake and the Fire Authority’s new Chairman, Councillor Andrew Backhouse, officers are to prepare a report for the fire authority's December meeting to increase crewing at the day-crewed stations, which includes Malton, to four.

Cllr Backhouse said: "While I respect the opinion of officers in regards to the crewing levels of our recently introduced TRVs, it is clear there continues to be serious concerns in regards to the perceived risk to frontline firefighters and, as importantly, the members of the public where ever the crewing levels at the named stations remains at three.

"It is my duty as chairman of the authority to listen to all sides of the argument and to then manage out that risk to the best of my ability. I understand the concerns raised and genuinely believe that the instructions I have given to officers is the best way forward in addressing those concerns while ensuring that the risk to firefighters and the wider public is minimised. "Further savings will need to be found in other areas of work to facilitate this change, especially in regards to better collaboration with the police service. We shall continue to monitor the performance of the newly introduced TRVs to ensure that they are fit for purpose going forward."

Following a review of fire cover provision across North Yorkshire, six TRVs have been introduced to the service to replace six standard fire engines.

Mr Hollinrake said: "I am delighted with this change of policy because, without four officers in attendance, the requisite number to enter a burning building, I was worried that lives were in danger.

"In an effort to save money the Fire Authority has recently changed its policy to allow a crew of just two or three firemen on the vehicle.

"This meant they had to wait for backup before going inside, putting lives at risk. I congratulate the chief fire officer for listening to the arguments and acting swiftly and I am convinced that this decision will not only save lives, but make the fire service safer for everyone."

A Malton firefighter, who asked not to be named, said: "Malton firefighters welcome the decision to halt the plans to crew the TVRs with three firefighters. This would have placed both the firefighters and the communities of Malton and Norton at an unacceptable risk. We would like to thank both Malton and Norton town councils and Kevin Hollinrake for their vocal support."