THE guardians of the Malvern Hills have ‘very serious concerns’ about how proposed fire cuts will affect people using their land.

Cllr Sarah Rouse claims the cuts will leave the town without specialist rescue skills, which will put lives at risk.

These rope and water rescue skills are possessed by full-time firefighters in Malvern, but the fire service intends to limit the firefighters’ hours to week days.

They will be replaced by part-time staff during the weekends and retained firefighters, who have other jobs, at night.

Opponents claim these firefighters lack specialist skills, have less local knowledge and are not always available.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service said the cuts will save £300,000 and mean that a fifth firefighter can be join full-time crews.

Fire crews of five are beneficial because it means they can work quicker and engines are still available if a crew member is ill.

Duncan Bridges, chief executive officer of the Malvern Hills Trust, said: “It’s a serious concern for us.

“We understand that the rope access crews would not be available at weekends and evenings and we would rely on Droitwich for that service.

“Also the water rescue role would be undertaken by Severn Area Rescue Association, they have a branch at Upton.

“They [the fire service] will be relying on part-time and retained on the weekends and evenings, which are times when public use of the hills is at its highest.

“It’s quite a hilly area and there are steep slopes, it makes sense to have a rope access crew at this base.”

Mr Bridges added he is concerned about the level of local knowledge among the crews set to replace the full-time firefighters.

“We had an incident four or five weeks ago where a Worcester crew attended a fire at Old Hills, someone left a BBQ out and they [the crew] got there and didn’t have access codes to the gateway,” Mr Bridges said.

The trust will be writing to the fire service to express their concerns and they also discussed the matter at a land management committee meeting yesterday.

Cllr Rouse, of Malvern Hills District Council, said: “I think these proposals will lead to us not having rope and water rescue and we will have to rely on other areas at nights at weekends.

“There will be a time delay, we are putting lives at risk. I think they can make these savings elsewhere.

“Every month they [full-time firefighters] put hours in to train and to continue to be trained. The retained guys don’t have time to do that.

“We also have lots of people who fall on the hills and we haven’t had a big hill fire in a long time.”

Ms Rouse said that the quarries in the Malvern Hills can be dangerous, as shown by the two drownings in Gullet Quarry in 2013.

“Other people have been rescued from there and if the fire service had to come from further away, then the chances of them being saved are smaller,” she said.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service will be scrapping five full-time firefighter positions in Malvern and taking on 16 extra part-time staff.

They also intend to train retained staff in rope and water rescue skills and added that the current full-time firefighters at the station have been offered retained evening contracts.

A Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Specialist boat and rope rescue teams are available at multiple locations across the service therefore any short-term deficiency can always be covered by other specialist teams nearby.

“Our on-call firefighters are fully trained to the same standard as wholetime staff and are able to respond to any kind of emergency situation.

"Furthermore, they are required to live within five minutes of the station so have a good level of local knowledge.”

The spokesman added their on-call firefighters have won national and international rescue challenges.

The fire service is still in discussions with the Fire Brigades Union about the proposals and councillors on the Fire Authority are due to have a full briefing on the changes.

The Gazette is calling for the plans to be put on ice and for a full public debate to take place on the proposals.

To sign a petition against the cuts visit