FIRE chiefs were criticised today after approving in principle the closure of a fire station and the loss of an appliance at another base in Cwmbran.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority defended plans to shut Blaina fire station saying it was not predicted to increase fatalities and could save up to £158,000 a year.

They also approved in principle the removal of the second pump at Cwmbran fire station, which could lead to up to 17 redundancies.

The closure of Blaina fire station would potentially put 15 jobs at risk but the fire authority's Deputy Chief Officer Sally Chapman said the majority could be redeployed to other locations.

Blaina firefighter widow Margaret Griffin has campaigned to stop the closure of the fire station in the town since last autumn.

She said: "I am disappointed we didn't get a result today.

"We're still hoping at the minute. They are putting us through more.

"We have had enough of waiting. It's not fair to these boys."

The fire authority approved the measures in principle at its headquarters in Llantrisant today.

They will now be referred to Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen councillors then sent back to the fire authority with a final decision to be taken in September.

Fire Brigades Union rep Alex Psaila, 43, said: "We are very disappointed in the fire authority for making this decision.

These firefighters are professional and it is their only source of income.

"It is emotive for Blaina. We will carry on with the fight."

Blaina ward councillor Lisa Winnett also pledged to continue lobbying against the proposals.

Blaina Fire Station crew manager Ryan Smith acknowledged that his colleagues could keep their jobs by moving to other stations in Brynmawr or Abertillery.

But he maintained the station closure could present an increased safety risk for householders by increasing emergency response times in the town.

Mr Smith, 45, said: "Seconds counts in fires. Do not close a fire station if you've got it."

The fire authority put forward the proposals not only to cut costs but also improve performance.

Ms Chapman said that the time taken to respond to a house fire in Blaina would be around 10 minutes if the station closed.

She said response times in Cwmbran would remain unchanged for the first appliance, which could get to the scene of an incident within five minutes.

She added that statistics showed that a second appliance would need an extra minute - eight minutes - to attend the same incident if the Cwmbran proposals were given the green light.

Ms Chapman acknowledged the proposals were emotive but stressed that revised response times and safety risks had been independently verified.

She said: "Understandably this is an extremely emotive issue for Blaina and the authority.

"Ultimately the proposals would affect 15 individuals.

"The vast majority could potentially transfer to alternative stations if they so chose."