Police have been alerted amid claims that firefighters at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service allegedly photographed dead bodies of women at the scene of car accidents.

ITV News reported that images were shared on a WhatsApp group in which male firefighters allegedly made degrading comments about victims.

In an interview clip on the ITV News website, a female firefighter at the service said: “There’s explicit pictures, there’s photos of accidents, sometimes you can even see the dead body in the accident.

“Retrieving the body of someone dead should tear you apart, not make you want to take photos of it, just to joke about it later because that’s someone’s loved one, isn’t it? That’s someone’s relative.

“I’ve seen people say comments about the type of underwear the women are wearing in the car crash.

“It disgusts me that I have to work alongside people like this. People aren’t in the job for the right reason. I think they’re just power hungry and they get off on it.”

CFO of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Ben Ansell said in a statement that the police have been alerted as allegations of criminal behaviour are involved.

The service is commissioning an independent investigation into the claims, during which all female staff will have the opportunity to speak to an independent organisation.

It has also set up a confidential helpline which staff can ring with any “immediate issues” as a result of these allegations.

“The matters that have been raised with us are deeply concerning and we take allegations of this nature extremely seriously,” Mr Ansell said.

“There is an expectation for our staff to work in line with our code of ethics which sets out high levels of expected behaviours. The vast majority of our staff are good people, working hard and doing a great job. But when and if those standards are not met, we will move quickly to address it.

“Where people do come forward with concerns, we conduct thorough investigations in accordance with our disciplinary procedures.

“We are unable to comment on individual cases, but what we can say is that we continue to work to ensure that our organisation is a safe place, where staff feel able to report concerns of inappropriate conduct or behaviour.

“We are extremely shocked and appalled to hear about these allegations. We would ask that any individuals affected, provide us with further information to allow us to investigate these allegations and to enable us to offer our support to them.”

In a statement, Dorset Police said: “Following liaison between Wiltshire Police and Dorset Police, it has been decided that Dorset will take the lead in the inquiries.

“The limited details available in the news report are of a very concerning nature but will have understandably caused concern amongst the public and especially families of victims. We share that concern and will robustly investigate any information or evidence that is shared with us.

“Unfortunately, neither force has so far been provided with any specific details as to the precise allegations. ITV has been approached to disclose any information it has regarding these allegations, which could potentially be used as evidence, but it has yet to do so.”

The force urged anyone with information to contact them at www.dorset.police.uk/contact or by calling 101, quoting incident number 31:578. Crimestoppers can also be contacted anonymously online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling Freephone 0800 555 111.