DORSET & Wilts fire brigade have lost a fifth of their staff in just ten years, shock figures show.

The combined services have seen 258 firefighters' jobs axed, according to figures analysed by the Fire Brigades Union.

And despite former chancellor Philip Hammond declaring an 'end to austerity' last year, the service lost another three per cent of its staff in 2018 with a further 37 job losses.

However, the news comes as fires and rescue incidents requiring the service had risen, with wildfires, of the type frequently witnessed on Dorset's heathland - wildfires trebled here in 2018 - rising, said the FBU.

Fires in England spiked by ten per cent and 41,771 of the 45,653 people rescued by UK firefighters last year were from non-fire incidents, such as flooding, road traffic collisions, height rescues, lift rescues, and hazardous chemical spillages. In Dorset

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "Nationally, there has been a 19 per cent cut in frontline firefighters since the Tories took office, cutting firefighter numbers in every brigade in the UK. Overall spending on UK fire and rescue services has fallen by 38 per cent since 2005.

"In England, firefighter numbers have been cut by 21 per cent since 2010, despite a one per cent increase this year with recruitment concentrated in London and the North West. Central government funding for English fire and rescue services has been cut by 30 per cent in cash terms between 2013 and 2020."

He said that firefighter pay has been cut in real terms by £6,705.69 since 2008. Firefighters are currently being consulted on whether to accept a two per cent pay increase from their employers.

The stress that the Dorset & Wilts brigade are under was laid bare in a recent Freedom of Information request to the service.

Staff took 15,651 sick days between August 1 2018 and the same date this year, with 2,776 of them being recorded as mental health related.