FIRE stations could close and response times increase if further cuts are imposed on the South Yorkshire fire service by the government, fire chiefs warned.

Chief fire officer Jamie Courtney's warning came at a meeting which coincided with the release of performance figures for the service showing a

reduction in emergency incidents dealt with by crews.

He said: "South Yorkshire people are safer than they have ever been before.

"However, metropolitan fire services like ours were hit hard by the cuts for 2011-13 and the second round of cuts will be announced in December.

"I am genuinely concerned that if the cuts fall unfairly on services like South Yorkshire again, the result will be the closure of fire stations and

longer response times. The risk to local communities will increase."

Figures show fire-fighters dealt with 618 accidental property fires compared to 647 the previous year and the number of road traffic collisions attended

by fire crews had fallen to an all-time low of 387.

The number of hoax calls fell to its lowest ever rate, with just 80 calls attended, while another record low was the number of arson attacks dealt

with, which were down to 6,125 compared to figures from 2003/4 when 15,463 incidents were attended.