Plans to cut the size of fire crews and to trial new types of fire and rescue response vehicles are to go ahead.

Hertfordshire County Council's proposals are contained in the fire and rescue service’s ‘integrated risk management plan’ (IRMP), which was published earlier this year.

After months of scrutiny, consultation and evaluation, the plan was given the go-ahead by a meeting of the county council’s cabinet on Monday (July 8).

In line with the plan, the size of crews on traditional fire engines will drop from five to four.

And two new smaller types of vehicles – a ‘rapid response vehicle’ and an ‘intermediate response vehicle’ – will be trialled at Watford and Berkhamsted fire stations.

However, plans to take away one of the two traditional fire engines based at Watford fire station during the trial has been dropped.

Presenting the revised IRMP to the cabinet, executive member for community safety and waste management Cllr Terry Hone said there had been a period of long and detailed consultation with the public.

He said that consultation had made it clear that the public preference would be to keep both fire engines at Watford during the trial.

And he said that is what they had decided to do – with the control room  making decisions about which appliance should be dispatched to each incident.

“This is a trial and we will see what happens after the trial as to whether to expand the use of smaller vehicles,” said Cllr Hone, who pointed to other fire authorities who already opted for smaller vehicles.

Commenting on the plans to reduce the crew size, Cllr Hone said it would speed up response times.

“They will be able to move fire engines out quicker, because they won’t have to wait for a fifth operative to arrive,” he said.

And he told the meeting it was “not unusual” for engines to be dispatched with four firefighters, if it meant the appliance could be sent out more quickly.

He told the cabinet that the revised IRMP had been backed by the community safety and waste management cabinet panel – with the exception of the two Labour members, who had voted against it.

And he said recommendations for any future public consultation had also been made, including the need to look at the venue, timing and promotion of public meetings and to review alternative engagement methods, including outsourcing.