‘Lives would be lost’ if proposed changes to fire cover in North Devon go ahead, campaigners have warned.

The fire service held its public consultation at Barnstaple Library on Thursday, August 8 over its plans to streamline services, closing some stations and downgrading others.

Outside the event, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members warned the consequences could be dire.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) has presented six options that involve closing eight stations - including Appledore and Woolacombe - as well as altering the cover at other stations. A seventh option would involve cherry picking elements from the other six.

The proposal for Barnstaple is to see it downgraded from being staffed by 'whole time' (full time) firefighters 24/7 to having full-time cover in the day only, with on-call fire fighters covering at night.

FBU chairman and Barnstaple firefighter Scott Young told the Gazette: "Ultimately we would see lives lost. We cannot see how it can actually improve anything by taking an asset of night cover away.

"That would mean the whole of North Devon would have just on-call cover and it is putting another five minutes onto when the first fire engine leaves the station."

The next nearest full-time station is an hour away in Exeter.

Mr Young is concerned about the specialist equipment at Barnstaple: an aerial ladder platform, a water bowser and specialist equipment for incidents from cliff rescues to river rescue and flooding.

On-call staff are not qualified to operate the special equipment and it is feared assets could be lost at night.

A DFRS spokesman said a newly introduced initiative 'significantly improves our ability to deliver a range of training', although it was not specified what new training would be provided.

The spokesman said its risk modelling found on-call nighttime cover would be sufficient and that 'the only difference will be the response time of the first on-all appliance'.

In 2018 Barnstaple station attended 93 fires in its area, while Newton Abbot Fire station attended 105, and is fully on-call.

The spokesman said: "We are keen to avoid incidents happening in the first instance, and as shown in the consultation document, have identified expansion in this area, with the resources released by these proposals."

People have been urged to read the consultation document and have their say by going to www.dsfire.gov.uk. They have also been urged to send their comments to the fire authority councillors, whose details can be found at https://fireauthority.dsfire.gov.uk/.