The Island’s fire service is being run ‘on luck’ — and people could have died in Sunday’s massive hotel blaze in Sandown.

That was the warning from the chairman of the Island’s Fire Brigades Union, who said his members were under-resourced, left without proper relief and had issues over their equipment.

The owners of the Tarvic 2 and St Moritz, two adjacent hotels on Culver Parade, have been left counting the cost after the fire ripped through both properties.

Five crews had to be drafted in from Hampshire to help tackle the flames that engulfed the hotels, renewing concerns about the upcoming fire service review.

FBU chair, Pete Mawhood said services were being run on luck and, had the fire taken place at another time, the outcome could have been very different.

He said: “Had the fire taken place the previous Saturday we would have struggled to get three crews together. Had it taken place at night, we could well have been talking about fatalities.”

Cost-cutting measures meant fire and rescue services were being run in the hope major incidents did not happen.

But Cllr Tig Outlaw, IW Council cabinet member for community safety and public protection, said “I do not agree it is being run on luck.

“The service is all about matching the resources to the level of need. The officers and services tell me it’s safe. The new numbers [of officers] have not been decided and that is really important to stress.”

Mr Mawhood said the lack of recruitment of retained firefighters, combined with cuts to whole-time staff, meant there were not the numbers required to crew engines.

During the Sandown fire an aerial appliance was used. However, Mr Mawhood said they lacked the staff to get their second aerial appliance out of the station.

He said: “We did not have anyone to drive it — eventually it was driven to the scene, but it arrived later.”

All of the Island’s firefighters were at Sandown, meaning mainland crews had to be drafted in to help cover the rest of the Island.

Home Office guidelines state four hours after a fire, relief crews should replace frontline staff.

But, according to Mr Mawhood, crews had to wait seven hours before being able to rest. Even then they had to remain on call for other incidents across the Island.

Crews are also told breathing apparatus should not be worn more than once per incident. However, firefighters at the blaze had to wear it up to five times.

He said further cuts would mean not enough crews available overnight, putting both the public and firefighters at risk.

Ward councillor, Debbie Andre, also expressed concerns about the upcoming review.

Cllr Andre was one of the councillors who rejected the paper at scrutiny.

She said: “We cannot underestimate the issue of getting appliances from Hampshire.

“What is the justification for reducing the number of whole-time firefighters? We cannot afford to lose any more firefighters.”

Proposals, due to be seen by the cabinet on October 11, could see the number of whole-time firefighters cut by eight posts.

The controversial plans were rejected by council bosses in April and a revised review is due back before the council.

Cllr Outlaw said a full impact report was being prepared for consideration by the cabinet. However, he could not rule out a reduction in numbers.

He said: “Had the service review passed through, on Sunday, we would have seen more appliances on the road than we did.

“The review matches demand with resource, and most fires happen at the weekend, but at the moment we have little available at the weekend.”

Cllr Outlaw said the council would be looking to increase the number of retained firefighters.

However, he said it was not unusual, or unexpected, that Hampshire crews had been drafted in to help.

“The reality is, the fire was one of the most serious we have had in many years. Had two fires happened at the same time would have needed 16 appliances on the roads.

“Can we really plan for that? Would that provide value for taxpayers money?

“I don’t want to put anyone — my family, Islanders, the fire crew — at risk.”