Fire engines were taken out of action more than 200 times in seven months in Aberdeen, an Evening Express investigation reveals today.
North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald expressed concern at the figures and accused the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) of being “under-manned and under-equipped”.
Aberdeen has six fire engines in service round the clock and it was previously reported that number fell to four or five seven times in the month up to April 28.
Union officials claim the fewer the number of available appliances, the greater the risk to residents should several major fires happen at the same time.
New figures show engines were taken off the road 227 times in 202 days, between October 2 and April 22.
SFRS did not compile figures prior to October 2.
The data, obtained under freedom of information laws, also showed the city has lost 23 firefighters since 2015.
Nine of those retired and 14 others transferred out of the city – 12 in the last two years. No firefighters have transferred into Aberdeen since 2014.
Mr Macdonald said: “These figures must lead to real concern about fire and rescue services in Aberdeen.
“Early retirements and firefighters returning to their home areas elsewhere in Scotland have left the service under-manned as well as under-equipped, which can only add to the concerns.”
The Labour MSP accused the SNP-run Scottish Government for “causing the crisis” using a “reckless approach to centralisation”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This year the Scottish Government increased the spending capacity of SFRS by £15.5 million, to support SFRS transformation plans.”
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) north of Scotland organiser Leon Murray said he was concerned by the new Evening Express figures but was encouraged at improvements made since April.
He said: “What we must now see is that progress being maintained for the good of the public, the service and firefighters. We cannot get complacent.
“We already knew there were problems prior to May and these latest figures shine a light on the extent of those problems for the first time. They are a concern.
“In April, the FBU met with senior SFRS representatives and we were pleased with the commitments for improvement and with the fact that they apologised.
“More firefighters have been trained and have started work in Aberdeen and there are 24 more being trained in Portlethen, though not all of them will work in the city.
“They have improved rota management. Before, they would manage availability day-to-day and now they are looking a week ahead, giving the managers more power to identify shortfalls and bring in extra resources from elsewhere.
“That appears to be working well. The early signs are positive.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on whether that improvement is maintained.”
The Evening Express this week asked SFRS for an interview with a senior member of staff to discuss the issue. That request was refused by the service.
Its director of response and resilience, Lewis Ramsay, met the Evening Express in April and apologised for appliances being taken off the run before listing a series of measures aimed at improving the service, including taking on six new staff.
In a new statement, Mr Ramsay said: “I have already given a very clear commitment to our communities and assured them we are working hard to address crewing challenges in the city of Aberdeen, as priority.
“SFRS will always respond to every emergency call and work to ensure resources are deployed whenever and wherever they are required.
“In respect to staffing, we can make immediate use of a range of options to ensure we continue to provide an emergency response and that includes the strategic movement of individual personnel from other stations within the area.”
Mr Ramsay said the six full-time appliances in Aberdeen are supported by more than 30 appliances in Aberdeenshire which are staffed by retained fire officers – part-time staff who respond to emergencies when needed.
He added: “In March, appliance availability in Aberdeen was over 90%.
“It was 100% in Aberdeenshire and Moray, and 98% across the North service delivery area.
“We have welcomed trainees, we are empowering managers and we are also looking to manage attendance, while meeting the training needs of our firefighters.
“Training is absolutely critical and indeed our crew at Aberdeen Central station is the latest to have been trained in specialist water rescue, to the same standard as our 19 other water rescue units across the country.
“Our communities are protected by the UK’s largest fire and rescue service and can call on its vast combined resources and more than 7,000 firefighters.”