Fire services in Wiltshire take longer than those in any other region of the country to attend the most serious fires, according to government figures.

Firefighters took an average of 12.8 minutes to arrive at the scene of a ‘primary’ fire – including those in homes, offices and vehicles – in 2015/16, the most recent year for which figures are available. This was 45 per cent longer than the national average for England, which was 8.8 minutes.

The wait time for a fire crew in Wiltshire was nearly double that in Cleveland, which the was the quickest region with an average response time of 6.6 minutes.

The service has since combined to form Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said: “As a result of our combination, we have been able to increase our investment in prevention activities across the new service, but in particular we have focused on reducing rural risk through initiatives such as our Safe and Well Checks, targeted in those areas where we appreciate that it may take longer for a fire engine to arrive.

“In addition, we are constantly working to attract new on-call firefighters to improve the resilience of our rural emergency response, and the combination has allowed us to increase this investment to further improve the resilience of our response arrangements.”

The response time in Wiltshire was more than a minute longer than in neighbouring Oxfordshire, where the average was 11.5 minutes, the country’s second longest.

Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service also saw a one-minute increase in its response time over 2014/15, despite seeing a small drop in incidents, from 630 to 617, over the same timeframe.

Over a five-year period, the response time increased by 2.1 minutes from 2011/12 to 2015/16. The number of incidents decreased by 28 per cent.

There were 192 fires in homes in Wiltshire during 2015/16. With a response time of 10.8 minutes for them, Wiltshire’s waits were again the longest in the country. The English average was 7.7 minutes.

A spokesman for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said that their community safety plan included a target to attend 75 per cent of dwelling fires within 10 minutes but acknowledged that, as a predominantly rural service, they are often reliant on on-call firefighters, which can mean up to 6.5 minutes passing from the time of the 999 call until a fire engine is on the road.

The rural nature of the county is also a cause for the long response times overall, the spokesman added, as fire engines can take 20 minutes to reach some parts of the county, even when using blue lights and siren.

Karen Adams, brigade secretary of the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Brigades Union [FBU], said: “The figures quoted are for the old Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, which combined with Dorset on April 1, 2016, forming the new Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“The combined service integrated risk management plan is aiming to achieve a response of 10 minutes to a domestic dwelling fire on 75 per cent of all occasions across the service, which is ambitious due to the rural makeup of the service.

“The prolonged response times are as a result of the abolition of a national response standard and the FBU has been very vocal in the need to re-introduce a national standard for all fire and rescue services to adhere to.”