LIVES could be put at risk by cuts to firefighters in two neighbouring counties, it has been warned.
Community leaders are concerned fire coverage on the Hampshire and West Sussex border will be severely diminished following sweeping changes to fire stations in both counties.
Last week, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service agreed to changes to save £4m from its budget, including reducing the number of firefighters in Emsworth, Havant, Horndean, Waterlooville, and Petersfield, which traditionally attend incidents on the border.
Two years ago firefighters were reduced at Chichester and Bognor and Bosham fire station closed in 2011.
Cllr Sandra James, who covers the Southbourne, Westbourne and Hambrook areas, said: ‘It’s something that could create real issues for people’s safety.
‘It’s going into an untested environment.’
She was concerned resources would not be enough because well over 300 new homes are planned for Southbourne, as well as big developments in Emsworth.
Former firefighter Tony Morris said: ‘This is a large scale and dangerous experiment, which is not supported by evidence or trials.
‘Protection for people on the Hampshire/West Sussex border will be significantly reduced.’
Gary Towson, a spokesman for West Sussex firefighters, said: ‘We think attendance times will come down, although it will be a different type of appliance getting there in the Westbourne, Hambrook and Southbourne area.
‘They will be quickly backed up by firefighters from Havant or Chichester.’
A spokeswoman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue said new vehicles would be introduced, providing the latest ‘cutting edge technology’.
She added: ‘We want residents of both Hampshire and West Sussex to be reassured that future changes to our service will help to provide a smarter, more efficient and more relevant service for those who live, work and travel in Hampshire. These changes also come following an extensive public consultation and a comprehensive review of risks throughout the county.’
The changes will take three years to implement.