SAFETY concerns have been raised because fire crews in the borough and the rest of the county are being sent out to emergencies from a new 999 call centre based in Warrington.

The North West Fire Control began handling all emergency calls from Greater Manchester last Wednesday, alongside those from Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire, with a team of 45 operators.

Previously, firefighters in Greater Manchester were mobilised from a control room in Pendlebury, Salford, which closed on May 26.

Some firefighters had raised concerns over the new centre, claiming some operators may not have sufficient knowledge of particular areas and that there may not be enough fire engines sent out to certain emergencies.

They had also suggested there may not be enough operators to cover the number of areas handled by the centre, and last month, passed a vote of no confidence in the centre.

Since its opening, it is understood that a fire engine from Warrington was sent to an emergency miles away in the Wigan area.

There is also said to have been several higher-risk fires, which normally require four to five fire engines, where only one fire engine attended.

Simon Yaffa, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) chairman for Greater Manchester, said: “There are some teething issues and I appreciate we are in the early stages, but we have concerns for the safety of firefighters and members of the public.

“Operators are going to be dealing with a larger number of calls and we will lose the local knowledge we had at the old control room.

“From what I gather, there will only be eight to 10 people on a shift at any one time and we are unsure whether staff are going to be able to cope with the number of calls they receive.

“We don’t want to scaremonger, but from our perspective we will be keeping an eye on it and seeing how it works out.”

Gary Keary, FBU county secretary, said: “The new control centre will have a total of about 45 operators; we had a similar number just to cover Greater Manchester.

“There is also the issue of local knowledge.” Bosses at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) say that North West Fire Control’s skilled operators and sophisticated technology will mean an improved service to the public, with firefighters responding to emergencies quicker and calls answered faster.

Paul Argyle, GMFRS director of emergency response, said: “Our move to North West Fire Control is a positive step forward to introduce a state-of-the-art command and control facility.

“This is a great move for the communities of Greater Manchester saving the public hundreds of thousands of pounds and improving the service we offer them.”