PLANS to downgrade a fire station at Hastings could put the Rye area at risk say protestors.
The move is being strongly opposed by Rye MP Amber Rudd, who says she has concerns about the safety of residents and has launched a petition against it.
The Ridge Fire Station provides vital back-up cover for Rye and the surrounding villages.
Units from the station were in action at Camber just two weeks ago helping to tackle a major house fire.
The station also played a key role in dealing with a major chemical spill at Rye Harbour a few years ago, which sparked one of the biggest emergency responses in Sussex,
Now East Sussex Fire Authority wants to downgrade The Ridge to a retained station, meaning the building will be unmanned for much of the time with an on-call crew.
One Hastings-based firefighter, who did not want to be named, said it could compromise the level of cover across rural Rother as crews could spend more time backing up their Hastings colleagues.
He said: “As attendance times will be slower, there is a higher likelihood of more involved, more devastating fires in that area.
“This could lead to stations such as Rye, Battle and Broad Oak spending more time backing up crews in Hastings rather than protecting their own communities.
“Conversely, many more involved fires in the Rye and Broad Oak areas would have historically had The Ridge as its first back up station.
“They could now effectively be waiting an extra five minutes for the next fire engines to arrive from Hastings for larger fires.”
Rye councillor Mary Smith said: “It would be awful. Rye would suffer as it is right on the edge. This is a vital public service.”
Amber Rudd said: “I am very unhappy about this proposal and I am determined to oppose it. It would lead to increased response times to residents in rural areas.
“I have concerns about the safety of local residents and will raise this at the highest level.
“I have already raised the issue with the new Minister responsible for the Fire Authority, Brandon Lewis MP.
“I expect to present this petition in the chamber of the House of Commons before the end of the consultation. For this I need actual signatures, which is why I am urging residents to show their support by contacting me for a hard copy of the petition.”
A 12 week consultation period will now be carried out with the public and a final decision made at the next Fire Authority meeting on December 13.