A DROP in staff over the last 10 years has resulted in fires not being dealt with quickly enough, according to current firefighters.

The latest data from the Home Office has revealed that Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) had 1,004 firefighters across the two counties in 2019, when in 2010 (before Wiltshire and Dorset services merged in 2016) there were 1,248.

Last year around 580 of these firefighters were on-call only.

Now firefighters based in Salisbury claim that the government’s pay cuts and service cuts have caused the slash in staff, as well as an increase in administrative jobs.

Firefighter Alex Hardisty said that the job is “not what it used to be”, adding: “We are such a small crew and we are constantly under so much pressure, not only to do our main job but the admin side of things as well, like paperwork after each call-out, safe and well visits and using social media pages.

“Obviously we all love our work, that’s why we’re here, but you can understand why less and less people are signing up.

"Cuts have really had an impact on our service and how quickly crews can get to incidents – this was a tough job to be in anyway but now even more is expected of us.”

Despite attending more than 150 fires in Salisbury last year, crews based at Salisbury Fire Station have halved in size as staffing figures continue to drop, which has had an impact on response times and how quickly firefighters can deal with an incident.

Salisbury crew Red Watch told the Journal that earlier this year they had to attend a fire in Shrewton because there was no closer support available, and these firefighters were the first at the scene 20 minutes after the call.

Crew manager Martin Waker said: “It can take a while to get crews into the centre of an incident. Instead of stopping an incident we are just stopping it from getting worse.”

Alex added: “The government makes decisions without knowing what it’s like on the ground.

“There just isn’t enough staff – people are having to come from areas which are miles away.”

Martin added that another reason recruitment figures have declined is because of the public’s understanding of what it means to be a firefighter, and more measures are in place to “change perceptions”.

He said: “Being a firefighter is also a mentality. You need to want to save lives – you think of incidents like 9/11 when firefighters were running back into the building, it takes a certain mindset and person to be able to do that.

“There is a lot of positive action going on, we’re doing more ‘Have a Go’ days - these open peoples’ eyes and get people to understand that they can do it.

"There is a mindset still out there that people can’t be firefighters and it’s something they wouldn’t want to do.”

There has been a decline of around 9,000 firefighter jobs across England over the last decade, according to the Home Office data.

Salisbury MP John Glen said that DWFRS needs to be celebrated for its “fantastic job keeping us all safe”, highlighting the ‘Good’ outcome of its first inspection last year.

He said: “There have obviously been some constraints on public spending over the past decade due to the £150billion deficit the government inherited in 2010.

"However, last year firefighters received a two per cent pay increase which, while modest, was above inflation.

"In the Budget last week, the government also provided an additional £20million to increase inspection and enforcement capabilities and undertake a strategic response to the Grenfell Inquiry’s findings.”