Firefighters in Peterlee could be shifted out of the town as emergency service chiefs battle to balance the books.
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) needs to slash almost £450,000 from its budget next year.
And in a bid to make ends meet one of Peterlee’s fire crews could be dispatched up the coast to Seaham every night to provide cover.
Currently, Seaham is staffed by firefighters working from 7am-7pm and outside these hours they stay in nearby accommodation blocks so they can respond quickly to night incidents.
But this arrangement faces being scrapped, with night cover provided by an ‘on-call’ system where staff could be called into work within five minutes of an alarm being raised.
A similar shift pattern is already used in Spennymoor and it is predicted the change could save the service up to £350,000.
A second option being considered could also see a fire engine from Peterlee sent to Seaham to provide cover at night, although this proposal is only expected to save about £50,000.
Similar changes are also on the table for Newton Aycliffe, which currently uses the same shift pattern as Seaham, and are due to be debated by Durham County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday, January 7.
Government funding cuts mean CDDFRS is facing a budget gap of £735,000 by 2021/22.
But the proposals have also been prompted by changes at other fire brigades.
According to CDDFRS: “A legal ruling involving South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service means we need to make changes to one of our shift systems.
“We have recently carried out a comprehensive review of our emergency response provision across the entire service to ensure we have the right level of resources, in the right place, at the right times, to keep [the public] safe and make sure we are offering the most efficient and effective service possible.”
A consultation on the changes started in November and the public have until February 4 to submit comments.
A report on the survey’s findings is expected to be debated by the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority on February 22.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service