Campaigners have launched a petition calling on the county council to reverse £1.6m cuts to fire services.
West Sussex county councillors voted in favour of the cuts last October, which will see Crawley lose a fire engine and ten retained firefighters.
Retired firefighter Tony Morris initiated the petition, and said new figures showed that for a second year running, West Sussex had the most fire deaths and injuries per head of population of any area in the south-east, including London.
But a spokesperson from West Sussex Fire and Rescue said the number of fatalities from fire in the county remains low and that changes to the service were ‘widely consulted on, scrutinised and debated in full’ by councillors.
County councillor Michael Jones, Labour’s county spokesperson for issues relating to the fire and rescue service, welcomed the petition and urged people to sign it.
Last year there were eight fatalities in the county as a result of fire. Statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that figure would translate to ten if the population of the county was one million, instead of approximately 800,000, putting West Sussex top of the list of fire deaths per population for the south-east. The 158 casualties per million population is also the highest.
A spokesperson from the fire service, accused Mr Morris of taking figures out of context and making ‘misleading claims’.
Former station officer Gary Towson said: “Whilst the latest statistics do show eight fire deaths last year they sadly often involve personal circumstances that make it difficult for us to achieve a more positive outcome.
“For example, two of the deaths were suicide and one is an ongoing murder investigation. Another involved a fatal car accident.
“The number of fire fatalities will fluctuate each year, but they remain low and continue to show a long-term downward trend.”
The petition can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1zFbvOR