TWO West Cumbrian fire stations will get new ‘rapid response vehicle’ despite strong opposition.

High-ranking councillors have defended the rollout of the smaller vehicles, which will be trialled at Maryport, Staveley near Kendal and Arnside,

possibly paving the way for other communities to get them in the future.

Frizington, which was also earmarked, will also get one despite strong opposition.

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

A Conservative amendment to exclude Frizington was defeated by 33 votes to 26. The project – contained in the council’s Integrated Risk Management Plan – was backed 38 votes to 12 in a second vote.

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 Chris Whiteside, the Conservative councillor for Egremont North and St Bees, called for Frizington to be removed from the project.

He also called for a full report to be brought back to several council committees before any “irreversible” decisions were made.

Cllr Whiteside said: “We must take into account the views of the firefighters in Copeland who are the people who know what’s involved in fighting fires best.

“They are adamantly and very, very strongly opposed.”

Cllr Arthur Lamb, the Conservative member for Cleator Moor East, said using a crew of three with limited “water and equipment” would put them under “massive mental and physical stress”.

He questioned the timing of the consultation which he said was launched at Christmas.

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.