LIVES will be put at risk by funding cuts threatening Dorset’s firefighters, a union warns.

The damning verdict comes as the county’s fire chief voiced fears that the looming 25 per cent Government cut will make the service ‘almost unviable’ with firefighters, fire engines and stations under threat.

Karen Adams, the Fire Brigades Union’s Dorset branch secretary, has been among the firefighters lobbying MPs to safeguard the Government grant to Dorset Fire and Rescue Service.

She said: “With firefighters being lost they could be putting lives at risk.

“With any reduction in resources not only are we putting firefighters at risk we are going to be putting the lives of members of the public at risk.

“If there’s less people turning out to incidents and people are going to have more jobs to do visits will still be done but this will definitely put people at risk.”

Chief fire officer for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service Darran Gunter said the looming 25 per cent cut is ‘disproportionate’ as other fire services have bigger grants and higher amounts from council tax.

The service currently has a budget of £29 million with £11million coming from central government.

The 25 per cent cut will therefore see £2.75million a year lost.

Dorset’s £29m budget covers 710,000 people and Mr Gunter points out as an example how 760,000 people in East Sussex are covered by a £39m budget.

Mr Gunter has lobbied MPs to save the funding or let them change the amount they get from council tax.

He said: “We think to have a further unfair cut is disastrous.”

The service has been recognised by the Audit Commission as providing a cost-effective service with limited scope for making further savings.

Mr Gunter added: “We are getting to the stage where we are not cutting off fat anymore and we are in danger of cutting off the limbs of the organisation – there is no fat left to cut. You just can’t make a 25 per cent cut without affecting the frontline.

“When you consider Weymouth’s station costs £1.1m to run and Dorchester £300,000 and then Maiden Newton or Portland £150,000 you can see the kind of changes we would have to make.”

Mr Gunter said whole time crews in Poole and Bournemouth would be the first hit but expects Weymouth and Dorchester to be protected.

“If it gets to the point where we are desperate then we will have to look at retained posts as well,” he added.

Posts have already been civilianised and 20 jobs will go through natural wastage.

He added: “But we’ve come to the point where we’re almost becoming unviable.

“If we’re giving up 25 per cent we are going to have to look at the number of people at stations, the number of appliances and the number of stations.”

Mr Gunter said the service is already trying to make up a shortfall of £2.6m. He is expecting an additional government grant to cover the council tax freeze for two years but after that they will be short of £3.1m a year.

Mr Gunter insisted Weymouth’s new £6.5million fire station due to be open next summer is not under threat despite the uncertain financial times facing the authority.

He said funding for the scheme had already been secured and construction of the new facility in Radipole Lane was on course.

Mr Gunter said: “The capital funding was secured with the sale of the existing fire station.

“It is very much on target and well within budget, the building will be completed in June and we expect it to be operational in July.”