A FIRE brigade will share answering 999 calls during busy times with another fire service more than 300 miles away.

North Yorkshire Fire Authority members yesterday voted unanimously to link their control room to Cornwall Fire Brigade’s in a drive to improve response times following major incidents, such as flooding and multiple road accidents.

They said Cornwall was selected as a partner due to its distance from North Yorkshire, as the two areas often experienced different weather conditions.

Cornwall councillor Lance Kennedy said: "Given that it normally takes a day for storms to move north-south or vice-versa, it's unlikely that both control rooms would be suffering severe flooding at the same time so they'd be able to support each other."

An authority report said as both counties included large rural areas and normally experienced low levels of calls, with the Northallerton-based control room dealing with 15,000 emergency calls a year.

However, it said its control room had struggled to cope during major incidents, but from April its staff would be reduced from 20 to 17, as the service seeks to cut costs.

The Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) said the lack of local knowledge by the control rooms would affect response times and lead to further job cuts.

FBU secretary Richard Stevens, said: "The technology does help pinpoint, but it doesn't always give the exact location. The same applies down in Cornwall."

The authority’s chairman, John Fort, responded that firefighters at the county’s 39 stations know their surrounding areas well and it was only the initial call which was being shared.

He said control room staff in North Yorkshire would only call in help from Cornwall when the volume of calls became too high.

He said the 15-year-old Northallerton control room system was being updated and.the control room operation maintained, and said the partnership would represent “a service above and beyond” what has previously been provided.

Councillor Fort said the sharing of calls during periods of high pressure would improve the effectiveness of control operations while cutting costs.

He said: “With modern technology it is not a long way to Cornwall, so this is a win-win situation for North Yorkshire.”