A FIRE station in Sydney's north-west was closed for several hours because of government funding cuts, firefighters say, just two nights after bushfires threatened homes and lives nearby.
They said the state government's $70 million cut from Fire and Rescue's staff budget meant stations that did not have a minimum of four staff on a shift were closed rather than other firefighters approved to work overtime.
However, a spokeswoman for Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins said the stations were not "closed" but "momentarily" out of operation.
Schofields station closed on Thursday night when one crew member took injury leave, until a crew from Mona Vale arrived to cover the shift.
It was the third time since January the station was out of operation for a time.
Riverstone station, which is part-time, has needed replacement crews from other stations 55 times since November and been called on to cover elsewhere once.
Firefighter and union member Trevor Ross said sending crews to "plug holes" would leave suburbs exposed in an emergency.
"Schofields station is at the interface where houses meet the bush," he said.
"Riverstone is only part-time, but what happens at all stations is if they don't have enough staff, they close rather than getting people in on overtime."
"The main thing (in an emergency) is the time factor.
"You can call people in from home, but there's a big time delay from when they get the call to when they get to the station and to the fire."
Mr Ross said five stations around Sydney were closed when fires flared on Tuesday, forcing the service to move crews around the city.
The Fire and Rescue NSW spokeswoman said: "Fire and Rescue NSW would never put the community or firefighters at risk.
"From time to time, a station or a fire truck might be off-line for short periods of time.
"Fire and Rescue NSW has a large network of fire stations and trucks, which means the community is well-protected at all times.
"Each fire truck is a mobile resource, which can be moved to different areas based on risk and need."