DOVERCOURT fire station was left without any available crews while the town’s full-time firefighters responded to a blaze elsewhere in the district, a councillor has claimed.

The station’s first engine is currently manned by a full-time crew, while its second is operated by on-call firefighters.

Dovercourt will lose its full-time crew next March when proposals put forward by Essex Fire Service come to fruition.

Both engines will instead by manned by crews of on-call firefighters.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Harwich town councillor Ivan Henderson quoted figures showing the town has frequently been left without the availability of its second fire engine.

The figures show Dovercourt’s on-call engine was only available 35per cent of the time throughout May.

Last month it was available 63per cent of the time.

“I was on the fire authority at the time this was going through,” he said.

“You’d speak to the firefighters they would tell you - for a house fire you need two pumps and you need them very quickly, more or less within ten minutes.

“If we haven’t got a pump to turn out to a house fire and have to wait for one to come from 25 minutes away that could be critical and it could be fatal.”

Following a meeting with fire commissioner Roger Hirst in July last year, the town council was assured the current system in place at Dovercourt fire station will not change until sufficient on-call fire firefighters are available.

“He told us Harwich will not be left without sufficient cover,” said Mr Henderson.

“Well, from my information recently there was a hay fire at Bradfield and the on-call pump from Manningtree wasn’t available.

“Our whole time firefighter pump went and we were left without a pump, as our on-call pump was not available.”

Mr Henderson fears the town could be left “in trouble” if it has to rely on the availability of two on-call crews at all times.

But councillor Garry Calver added: “We’re not even talking about next March - we have not got safe coverage now.

"If you’re trapped in a house fire, you have ten minutes and if you’re not out within that time, your chances of survival are minimal.”

The council resolved to write to Mr Hirst once again, quoting the figures and seeking assurances about the town’s future coverage.