YORK fire station was closed yesterday - because there weren't enough firefighters to crew the engine.

The fire station in Kent Street shut at 8am - when only one member of staff was available - and remained closed until 6pm, with the fire engine locked inside, said Steve Howley, North Yorkshire FBU secretary.

He claimed this not only increased response times in the event of fires but also left the service unable to crew its York river rescue boat.

He claimed the mothballing decision represented a 'new low' for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

"With the river in flood and deaths in the river reaching an unprecedented level over recent months, the service should be doing everything in its power to keep this vital resource available 24/7, not casually pulling the shutters down if enough staff are not on duty to crew it," he said.

He claimed there had long been widespread unavailability in the part time service but the same issues were now affecting full time crews as austerity continued to impact budgets and staffing.

"I fear lives will be needlessly lost," he said, adding that he would be raising the issue with the Chief Fire Officer.

York council's Labour group leader Danny Myers said the closure was 'outrageous' and was evidence of 'very real holes in the safety net' after years of cuts to public services.

“Enough is enough," he said, adding that he had written to North Yorkshire's Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to demand an urgent review of crewing policies and ask how the closure decision was taken.

A service spokeswoman confirmed the station was shut on Tuesday, saying two members of staff there had attended training at the Service Training Centre, which had been planned for some time,and a number of staff had been absent due to ill health.

"Whilst the fire engine and boat from Kent Street were not available, crews at Huntington and Acomb fire station provided fire cover and the rescue boat from Selby, which forms part of the planned emergency response to water incidents in the York area, was available," she said.

"As there was fire cover in the York area, a member of staff from York station was moved to another fire station to improve fire cover in other parts of the county.

"These decisions aren't taken lightly and we recognise the FBUs concerns."

She admitted the service was currently understaffed and said it was about to launch its first recruitment of new wholetime firefighters in ten years. "While they're being recruited and training - a 9 month process- temporary wholetime contracts will be given to some of our on-call firefighters.

"This will immediately alleviate the situation, and in the longer term we'll be back to full strength."

She added that more information about the recruitment drive was available at www.northyorksfire.gov.uk.