FIRE stations across Hampshire have been hit by staff shortages due to the spread of Omicron seeing firefighters either off sick or self-isolating.

The Fire Brigades Union said the situation has even seen one fire station left with no firefighters available for duty.

It also said that staff shortages have left multiple other stations without fire engines.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service said they have robust contingency plans in place, and were constantly reviewing the situation.

It said that 64 firefighters were off with Covid or self-isolating on January 3 - representing 4.4 per cent of the workforce.

Area manager Kevin Evenett, assistant director of operations for HIWRS, said: “Like all emergency services, we have robust contingency plans in place to cover staff absences and keep those plans under review to make sure we can continue to respond when needed. This includes moving firefighters and fire engines around when necessary to maintain cover.

“All colleagues have been reminded about the importance of protecting themselves and others from Covid-19 and this includes wearing face masks, practicing social distancing where possible, using lateral flow tests, and isolating when necessary.”

However Mark Chapman, regional secretary for Region 12 of the Fire Brigades Union, issued a stark warning.

He said: “The service is at an absolutely threadbare level of cover.

"We even had one fire station essentially left without any firefighters, having to borrow firefighters from another station.

"As Omicron takes grip across the country that’s something we’ll continue to see in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and more widely.

"That’s because the government has cut the fire and rescue service to its bare bones, with Hampshire losing almost one in five of its firefighters since 2010, and the Isle of Wight losing more than one in four in that same period.”

The FBU said that Gosport fire station had no rostered firefighters available on the night of December 28, meaning that firefighters had to be moved from another fire station to cover there.

It also said that the incident is part of a wider pattern of shortages in the area, thought to be related to Covid.

In the period from December 28 to January 2, numerous fire stations were short-staffed on a further three days meaning fire engines were unavailable - with five engines unavailable on December 28.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service had around 40 people self-isolating with Covid as December 28.

However fire chief Mr Evenett said that this had been planned for and that it had not affected the public.

He added: “Gosport Fire Station was fully crewed on December 28. Staff absences unrelated to Covid-19 were managed in line with our contingency plans and personnel were moved around to maintain cover.”