LIVES could be put at risk if the county’s fire service is forced to press ahead with major cuts, union leaders have warned.

Savings of up to £8million may have to be found over the next three years, according to the Lancashire branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

And FBU secretary Steve Harman, commenting on the Lancashire service’s 2012 action plan, claims firefighters are already being placed under too much pressure.

The county brigade has already made £2.52million savings this year, mainly from revised staffing arrangements, including the introduction of a new day crewing system at Darwen and Rawtenstall stations.

Mr Harman said a quarter of firefighter posts had been lost in Lancashire since fire service modernisation began in 2004.

He said: “It is our belief that a further £5million to £8.8million reduction in the Lancashire Fire and Rescue service budget is totally unachievable.

“It will lead to failures in our safe operating procedures, and will ultimately lead to unnecessary deaths and higher financial losses.”

In the review he also says that many firefighters and crew managers are already having to work longer hours at incidents, because of a shortage of cover.

Chief fire officer Chris Kenny said the service was continuing to work with the government over future funding and he did not want to speculate on possible losses. He said: “That said, it is, of course, safe to assume that reducing expenditure further will be on the agenda.

“For a number of years we have been required to introduce efficiency savings and already have successful strategies to draw on, such as our day crewing plus staffing project, ensuring no reduction in service but saving £400,000 annually at the fire stations where it is introduced.”

Mr Kenny said that he welcomed the FBU’s response to the performance report.