A PUBLIC consultation into the future of firefighting in Sunderland closed last night.
The debate was opened after Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service revealed several months ago that it needs to shave almost £8million from its budget by 2017.
As part of possible proposals, more than 130 staff could lose their jobs and Sunderland Central Fire Station, in Railway Row, Millfield, might be axed.
Five firefighters could also be reduced to four at stations with one appliance, which includes Fulwell and Rainton Bridge.
Representatives from the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) however have said that cuts on that scale will definitely create a safety risk to the public.
Public meetings were held in November at the Quayside Exchange and at The Place, both in Sunderland city centre, where fire chiefs spoke about the budget changes.
Campaigners from pressure group Save Sunderland City Centre Fire Station attended the events and called on bosses to rethink the proposals and look at alternative methods of reducing costs.
Union officials said today that they had been delighted with the response from the public.
FBU spokesman for Sunderland Gordon Chalk said: “We’ve delivered 10,000 leaflets in Sunderland since the consultation began and everyone we’ve spoken to is up in arms about what might happen.
“The Fire Authority should spend the money it has in reserve instead of cutting services.
“You can’t say that you have to make cuts when you have 25 to £30million in the bank.
“People think it’s a disgrace.
“There are too many lives that will be put at risk by the closure of a city centre fire station.”
Mr Chalk added that although the consultation documents are set to be handed over the Fire Authority later this month, members of the public who are in support of the union should continue the fight.
He said: “We want people to carry on asking their local councillors about this and also tell the fire service that it’s not what they want to see happen.”