More than 1,000 firefighters could be axed next year as the Government's cuts begin to bite, according to research by a Labour frontbencher.
At least 700 job losses among firefighting personnel are already being planned in response to Chancellor George Osborne's spending review, Shadow Communities Minister Chris Williamson has found.
Fire authorities face a reduction in the formula grant of 25 per cent – which comprises half of their income – over the next four years, with the bulk of the cuts weighted towards the end of the period.
In a survey of English authorities alone, Mr Williamson has been told that plans are already in place to scrap at least 710 firefighter positions.
That figure is likely to be an underestimate, as only 28 of the 45 authorities replied to the MP's survey and even among those that did respond, several suggested they could actually axe many more.
Taking their upper estimates as a guide, 1,285 job losses could already be in the pipeline.
Mr Williamson estimated that up to 5,000 positions could go over the course of the spending review period and he warned that the least well-off areas appeared to be bearing the brunt of the job losses.
"I'm alarmed that there will be large numbers of firefighters losing their jobs," he said.
"My concern is that it's potentially putting the safety of the public at risk.
"I don't think it's fair or appropriate to sacrifice public safety on the altar of deficit reduction."
He added: "The reality is, these cuts are not fair. It's the areas of the greatest need that will be bearing the biggest burden.
"A cut of 25 per cent over this period could lead to a reduction in the order of 5,000-plus, with the biggest cuts falling in the areas of greatest need."