Firefighters from outwith Aberdeen are being drafted into the city on favourable wages and put up in hotels due to a shortage of staff, it has been claimed.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) chiefs said last week that staffing levels were at times “unacceptable”.
Union bosses have called on SFRS leaders to “get back to basics” and to stop “papering over the cracks by throwing money at the problem”.
Since March, Aberdeen firefighters have complained they have been short of resources as fire engines have been taken off the run.
They fear people’s safety could be at risk if several fires happen at once when appliances are off the run, though SFRS bosses say they have never put safety at risk.
Figures obtained by the Evening Express in June showed engines in the city were taken off the road 227 times between October 2 and April 22.
A retired firefighter with links to serving fire officers in the city, who asked not to be named, said: “On Sunday, an engine had to come from Dundee to make up the numbers, and that left Dundee short.
“Bosses are offering firefighters in Dundee and Inverness overtime, paid from the time they leave to when they get back.
“Inverness firefighters are being paid this rate and put up in a hotel, and they are being provided with SFRS cars, so really they can be paid up to 18 hours for a single shift. It doesn’t seem like a logical use of money.
“This never used to happen when the service was regionalised before 2013. Appliances were never taken off the run.”
A Scottish Fire Brigades Union spokesman said those claims “sounded right”.
“Those cover firefighters are being paid up to £280 a shift, and you can add on £100 for a hotel room too,” the spokesman said.
He added: “Aberdeen firefighters are frustrated because the SFRS previously put this down to factors including staff annual leave, which is ludicrous because annual leave is structured in a way which makes it easy for them to plan months or even a year ahead.”
The spokesman encouraged SFRS to halt ongoing rope-rescue training until the staffing problems are over.
“They need to get back to basics. If staff are being put on training, it runs the risk of more appliances being taken off the run,” he added.
“We haven’t had rope-rescue capability in Aberdeen since the early 1990s, so why there is such a focus on it now, at a time when staffing levels are down so much, is puzzling.”
The fire service did not comment on the use of hotels and extra wages.
However, SFRS deputy assistant chief officer of the north, David Farries said: “The benefits of a national service allow us to put a request out across the north service delivery area for colleagues who may wish to take up overtime opportunities to cover short-term and unplanned leave.”
“Rope-rescue training courses are scheduled to run as planned,” he added.