Firefighters warned today that the Con-Dem coalition has concocted "grotesque" plans to "sacrifice lives on the altar of profit" by selling off England's fire services.
Tory Fire Minister Brandon Lewis wrote to regulatory reform committee MPs last month seeking new laws to let the country's 46 fire authorities "contract out their full range of services to a suitable provider."
Mr Lewis also claimed that locals support turning Cleveland Fire Brigade into a John Lewis-style business.
But fire union FBU said that privatising even parts of the service to the notorious AssetCo had brought "near-disaster."
London and Lincolnshire had signed their fire engines over to the privateer.
The FBU said that when AssetCo collapsed the fleets it was contracted to maintain could have been lost to its creditors.
"While profiting from our public service they were unable to meet their commitments to maintain and renew fire engines and equipment," said FBU general secretary Matt Wrack.
"These proposals are grotesque and if they come to fruition will sacrifice lives on the altar of profit.
"This is the same disastrous model that has been used in the health service, the rail industry and local government to slash services while providing bountiful profits for private companies."
Mr Wrack also pointed out that the "public-service mutual" planned in Cleveland was not led by workers and was just a bid to slash spending.
"Firefighters in Cleveland and elsewhere have told the FBU they do not want privatisation, they do not want mutualisation and they do not want contracting out.
"They want to provide a first-class service to the public and have professional pay and conditions of service."
But the union says the plans are more likely to undermine negotiations to improve pay and conditions as well as costing lives.
Mr Lewis and the Department for Local Government and Communities did not return requests for comment.
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