Outdated fire and rescue services are failing the public by neglecting work to prevent blazes so they can boost their income instead, a report claims.
Inspectors said brigades earned millions from rent, vehicle maintenance and training programmes, but failed to carry out their legal responsibilities.
They also accused them of putting the public at risk with ageing systems, poor equipment and a lack of investment.
After completing the first inspections of their kind for 12 years, officials said that, overall, the response to fires and major emergencies was good.
A Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services report has found that brigades are earning millions from rent but failing to carry out their legal responsibilities (file picture)
But they found services had scaled down fire safety work, particularly in care homes and hospitals. The inspectors criticised ‘autocratic’ and ‘domineering’ managers and were surprised at the lack of diversity.
They highlighted how, despite championing women firefighters, many brigades do not even have separate changing rooms and showers for them.
Half of all brigades work to supplement their income by millions each year in a range of schemes. Hampshire Fire and Rescue service raises £2million by allowing other public-sector staff to work in their premises.
Schemes such as training programmes are run in Lincolnshire, Cornwall, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Warwickshire.
The Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services report into 14 brigades said: ‘We are concerned that in some services these activities are prioritised over primary duties.
‘Staff are sometimes dedicating time to generating income instead of statutory duties such as fire protection work.’
Half of all brigades work to supplement their income by millions each year in a range of schemes such as training programmes (file picture)
Matt Wrack, of the Fire Brigades Union, warned that victims of fire and other emergencies faced a ‘postcode lottery’.
He said the number of fire safety inspectors had fallen by almost a third, and described the lack of ‘basic provisions’ for women firefighters as ‘outrageous’.
Mr Wrack also claimed that some brigades had not used their powers to prosecute those who fail to take adequate fire safety measures for more than two years.
Roy Wilsher, of the National Fire Chiefs’ Council, said: ‘The report states that long-term under-investment in areas such as protection has resulted in large reductions in fire safety audits.
‘However, to address these issues, it is essential fire and rescue services receive adequate funding.’
All fire services are expected to have been inspected within two years.