AN elderly couple could have been saved from a blaze at their West Kirby home had 'reckless' Government cuts not forced the closure of a fire station in the town, a union boss has said.

Anne and John Farrell died following a blaze at their home in Boulton Avenue on Monday morning.

They lived a short distance from West Kirby fire station which was closed down last year following budget cuts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) say that on the night of the tragedy resources were spread so thinly in the region - five appliances were dealing with a factory warehouse fire in Birkenhead - that the full target response time to Boulton Avenue was missed.

Cuts to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have seen its number of fire engines available to respond to emergencies cut from 42 to just 28.

The Wirral area of Merseyside used to be served by nine fire engines but has been cut to five.

All available fire engines were dealing with the warehouse fire and so were unable to attend the tragic house fire.

Mark Rowe, Merseyside FBU’s brigade secretary, said: “This is an absolute tragedy for everyone involved.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the couple and with the firefighters who attended the scene.

“Tragically, this incident highlights how the reckless Tory-led cuts have decimated our fire service and put our communities at greater risk. Fire cover in the Wirral has been rendered threadbare because of the cuts.

“As all the available fire engines were busy dealing with one fire this meant that fire engines had to be called from much further away.

“It means if we have two serious incidents at the same time it’s pot luck who gets the speedy and lifesaving response.

“Merseyside has suffered severe budget cuts, more than any other fire service, and fire deaths are now at a 10-year high as a result.

“The government needs to get a handle on the atrocious budget cuts they’ve forced fire services to make.

“If West Kirby fire station had remained open we could be looking at a different outcome today.”

A Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority spokesman said: “The first appliance in attendance at the house fire in West Kirby on Monday, March 21 which tragically led to the loss of two lives was from Upton fire station, which responded from the station in eight minutes and 14 seconds which is within the authority response standard.

“The second appliance to attend was from Kensington, which was mobilised as it was returning from a fire in Birkenhead.

“The impact of budget cuts to date has reduced the number of appliances available across Merseyside and the Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens and the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority have made it very clear that this will have an impact on response times in particular for second and subsequent appliances.

“The authority would like to express its heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.

"A community reassurance campaign will take place in the area to highlight the dangers of fire in the home including smoking while tired or in bed, cooking, candles and the importance of having an escape plan in addition to working smoke alarms.

“Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service continue to deliver free home fire safety checks to people over 65 or to those who may be vulnerable and need extra support referred by partner agencies."

To request a free home fire safety check telephone 0800 731 5958.