HIGH-ranking councillors have defended the roll-out of new, smaller “rapid response vehicles” for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service.

Stations in Arnside, Staveley and Frizington will trial RRVs for six months – possibly paving the way for other communities to get them in future.

The plans were backed by the Labour and Liberal Democrat group in charge at Cumbria County Council but opposed by the Conservatives.

Council officials have argued that turnout from low demand stations would increase under RRVs which requires only three crew, compared to a traditional fire appliance which can only respond with a minimum of four onboard.

Cllr Janet Willis, cabinet member in charge of the fire service, said Steve Healey, the county’s chief fire officer, supported the trial.

She said Cornwall, Northamptonshire and West Midlands had successfully brought in RRVs and the public consultation had not raised “noise”.

Cllr Willis, the Liberal Democrat member for Low Furness, said:  “I hear all the arguments. Everybody, to me, scaremongers. They say we can’t manage with just three firefighters and an RRV. If there’s a large fire there will not be three firefighters and an RRV, there’ll not be one full fire engine with just four firefighters, there will be back-up appliances coming in.”

She said close attention would be paid to the trial with a full report for councillors to discuss and decisions would not be made in an “ivory tower”.

Cllr Stan Collins, the Liberal Democrat member for Upper Kent, said: “We need some fire fighting vehicles which are capable of getting down our country lanes.” Cllr Peter Thornton, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Kendal Strickland and Fell said floods and snow could stop traditional engines getting through. ”

Cllr Keith Little, the Labour cabinet member for Maryport, said he was an officer in the fire service for 27 years, and there were areas that large appliances could not reach.