A third of specialist fire engines designed to deal with terror attacks will be cut with disastrous consequences for public safety, firefighters warned.
Tory ministers are set to pull 22 of England’s 65 incident response units at the end of the month.
The vehicles were introduced following the September 11 2001 terror attacks and carry decontamination equipment to save lives after biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear attacks.
The decision follows a review undertaken by the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Chief Fire Officers Association.
But firefighters’ union FBU said the change was announced “without proper discussion or consultation.”
General secretary Matt Wrack blasted: “This is vital specialist equipment that can save thousands of lives in the event of particular types of terror attacks.
“Removing one-third of them significantly reduces capability across England - this isn’t scaremongering, it’s fact.
“The remaining vehicles would have to travel further, meaning decontamination would be delayed, possibly with disastrous consequences for human safety.”
The units contain decontamination facilities for the use of emergency services, public decontamination showers, gas-tight clothing and equipment for monitoring radiation and hazardous materials.
Thousands of firefighters have been trained in their use.
Mr Wrack demanded: “Local communities have a right to know what has changed during 2015 to make them less at risk from these threats.
“Does the government think our communities have become safer? Are they assuming reduced potential casualty numbers? What are the changes to risk assessment? None of this is clear.”