Wiltshire Fire crews say they are deeply concerned over the impact of £1.8 million of cuts on the local fire service, which would do irreparable damage.

The cuts have been put out to public consultation before being considered by the fire authority.

The Fire Brigades Union is warning the cuts would mean a reduction in frontline fire fighters and appliances being spread more thinly across the county. The attack is across the service and affects all duty systems.

The key concerns are over:

* Cuts to 'on call' retained firefighters which could see the loss of one in three full time equivalent posts. Many are also concerned the contractual changes being demanded mean they are being asked to choose between their main employment, their families and their 'on call' fire service work for their communities;

* Plans to cut 30 whole time firefighter posts, one in six frontline posts;

* Cutting the number of aerial appliances (for use in buildings over three floors where fire engine ladders can't reach) from two to one would mean longer journey times before the only appliance could reach an incident. This would compromise public and firefighter safety;

* Removal of four emergency tenders used at road traffic incidents and building collapses and which carry enhanced medical equipment for use in specialist rescues where a member of the public may be suffering spinal injury;

* Halving the rope and water rescue team from 10 firefighters to five. The rope rescue team is used at buildings with difficult access, high rise cranes, on slopes outdoors or for rescues of people trapped where access is difficult such as a well or a hole. The water rescue team for water rescues or during flooding. This would affect the crew's ability to carry out rescues and achieve their objectives;

* The creation of 96-hour shifts for firefighters, when they will be based at their fire station and unable to leave, except for emergencies. They will be granted visiting rights for families. This is based on a system used in the Victorian age.

Brent Thorley, FBU brigade secretary said: "There is anger and concern among the firefighters in Wiltshire about the cuts proposed by senior managers.

"The cuts would see the loss of one in six whole-time station-based firefighters in Wiltshire leaving us with only 140 to provide around-the-clock emergency response.

"We're a small and efficient fire service and these cuts would leave us spread too thinly to guarantee an immediate response to emergencies.

"Our concern is the loss of frontline crews to the communities we serve, with fire service personnel and appliances thinly spread across the county.

"There would be much greater pressure on retained crews, who are also facing cuts, to fill the gaps. Our retained crews are aware they get limited training time in their current roles never mind having more responsibilities added.

"We rely very heavily on our retained fire crews who are now being asked to sign new contracts which make more demands on their availability. They feel they are being asked to decide between their main employment and the fire service they provide in their communities. Under these plans they will also be paid an hourly rate well below that of whole time firefighters.

"The loss of an aerial platform will leave us with only one for the whole county. This will inevitably mean it will take longer to get to incidents where it can be crucial for firefighter and public safety.

"We see no case for the removal of all four emergency tenders and halving our water and rope rescue team. These are all used at a range of emergencies and we fear losing specialist equipment, skills and personnel.

"The introduction of 96-hour shifts is a move back to Victorian days. It would confine those crews to being away from family for long periods of time and the long shifts could be very demanding. It would devastate the whole time service and would have a detrimental effect on their family lives.

"Like the fire service we want to see a first class service for the people of Wiltshire. We do not think these proposals are the right way of delivering the service the public pays for, expects and demands.

"We have written to the Chief and urged him to reconsider these proposals, also informing him of the anger and concern amongst the fire crews."