Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue has outlined plans to cope with on-call staff shortages, including potentially scrapping the five-minute response time at “non-strategic stations”.
On-call firefighters - who are paid but often have other work or time commitments and carry pagers to alert them to an incident - provide a cheaper alternative to full-time staff, and support the full-time service.
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service currently requires them to be available within five minutes when on-call.
The fire service says it is "experiencing fundamental issues regarding recruitment and retention" of on-call staff.
The latest report says: "We frequently have numerous fire appliances unavailable because there are insufficient firefighters to crew them locally.
"This means we have to utilise neighbouring fire appliances to provide that cover.
"Due to the way we manage our on-call stations, this is done efficiently with little detriment to our communities."
Three options to relieve the pressures have been suggested, which could all be implemented.
One option is to invest in appliances which can be crewed by fewer than four people, so allow smaller teams to respond to incidents.
Another option is to remove the larger 13.5 metre ladders from some or all on-call stations, where they are "rarely used". This would "enhance the effective use of valuable training time".
Another option being considered would extend the response time at "non-strategic stations" so as not to exclude candidates who cannot meet the current five-minute requirement. It is suggested with a response time of an hour, on-call firefighters could still relieve full-time staff responding to major incidents. This approach will be trialled "in the summer to determine if it does provide the anticipated benefits".
The non-strategic on-call stations in Cambridgeshire are: Burwell, Gamlingay, Kimbolton, Linton, Littleport, Manea, P'bro Vols, Sawtry, St Ives, Sutton, and Thorney.