FEARS have been raised that covering for a lack of firefighters in Wharfedale is stretching cover in the Aire valley to dangerous levels.

There is a shortage of part-time firefighters at Ilkley and Otley fire stations which means that the appliance from Bingley is often despatched to the area in case of emergencies.

The Bingley area is then looked after by appliances from Keighley or Shipley fire stations.

But a representative from the Fire Brigades Union says this is "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and leaving resources short in an area categorised by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service as high risk in order to provide cover in a low risk area.

David Williams, the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Secretary of the FBU, said: "I am genuinely concerned, not only for the lower risk areas but for the high risk.

"The statistics show the need for a full-time appliance in Keighley, Bingley and Shipley 24 hours yet for vast periods of time they are removing an engine from it.

"I can't understand the rationale.

"It a balancing act and the Chief Fire Officer is playing with people's lives. It's a gamble to take."

The fire service acknowledge that there is a problem with recruitment for its part-time on-call fire crews including at Ilkley and Otley and it is trying to recruit more staff.

In the meantime it says cover is always provided by the nearest available whole-time crew.

Mr Williams said the on-call firefighters at Ilkley and Otley can say they are only available at certain times so it is very difficult for the fire service to manage the fire cover when it is so flexible.

"I understand the availability at Christmas was very bad with not enough people to get four firefighters to man a vehicle. I imagine the availability is still very bad."

He said one answer would be to get more commitment from the on-call firefighters but he acknowledged that they are already volunteering to be available at five minutes' call 120 hours a week.

Mr Williams said that until a few years ago Silsden had two on-call appliances and the same at Keighley but since 2010 resources have been stripped away by austerity.

Keighley Fire Station crews now cover Silsden and Haworth, which has lost its fire station.

Mr Williams added: "It's a real issue. It's a real problem no-one is getting a grasp of.

"It has not happened overnight."

He pointed out that Bingley Fire Station is also a designated water rescue station which means crews are subject to additional training which can lead to them being unavailable. On Wednesday this week they were training on the River Humber.

Local district councillors said they were concerned about the town's exposure to fire risk from its appliance being sent elsewhere.

Cllr John Pennington (Con, Bingley) said: "I agree it would leave us being short. I'm concerned at the distance vehicles have to travel at high speed.

"There will come a time when an emergency vehicle has to come at high speed, often coming round the bypass and what would happen if it hit another vehicle?

"We have no control over fire. What if there are two at once or a big fire?"

Cllr Mark Shaw (Ind, Bingley) said: "I used to work with the fire authority. It's a very hard job, we need to support them in it. It's a very hard profession. I can't see them being able to cope. If they can't man the ones we've got, it's going to cause mayhem."

Cllr Simon Cooke (Con, Bingley Rural) said: "It's important to have adequate cover, it's a concern to everyone. The fire service is not getting its recruitment sorted out. The management are not doing their job properly.

"I'm worried for Bingley. People in Ilkley and Otley must be concerned."

Ian Brandwood, Chief Employment Services Officer, said: “The Fire Service is currently running a recruitment campaign for on-call firefighters in the area of Otley, Silsden and Ilkley due to low numbers in these areas.

“Fire cover is always provided by the nearest available whole-time crew if an on-call crew is not available.

“The job of being an on-call firefighter is a rewarding one which can work alongside your current employment, with your employer’s agreement, or can fit around other commitments you may have.

“It’s a great opportunity to give something back to your community and try something completely new and different in 2019!

“We encourage anyone interested to check-out the full requirements on our dedicated webpage.”