THE public are to be asked how quickly they think fire engines should respond to emergencies.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue set its own time target for responding to emergencies in 2006, which said crews would reach 80 per cent of life-threatening incidents within six minutes.

But it's never actually achieved that target and last year crews only made it to 55 per cent.

However, the number of 999 emergency fire calls has fallen from 45,000 to 21,000, and serious injuries and deaths from fires has also dramatically reduced by two thirds - dropping from 150 to 50.

The service will offer three different options as a means of setting a realistic target.

The first is not to set any time targets whatsoever but say the service will get to all emergencies as quickly as possible - something the fire authority and fire crews say they already do.

The second option is to continue to have a South Yorkshire-wide target, but also to have a more realistic timescale of reaching life-threatening incidents within nine to 11 minutes.

The final option is to adopt a 'risk-based' approach which would mean setting a shorter time target for higher risk areas where fires are more likely to happen, and to allow longer time for those at lower risk.

The three options will go out to public consultation in June and the fire authority is expected to make a final decision, based on that consultation, in September.

Assistant chief fire officer, John Roberts, said: "Fire does spread quickly, and a lot of the work we do is around prevention to stop the fire from starting in the first place. In terms of getting there as quickly as we can, we will always make that commitment to the public."