Conditions for retiring part-time firefighters are to be brought in line with those of their full-time colleagues.

Currently the retirement age for both is 55, but the Fire Authority allows a further 12 months of work for full-time employees.

Retained staff are offered only an extra six months.

But the Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority last week agreed that retained crews should now enjoy the same extension if they want it.

Brigade spokesman Andy Hargreaves said: "It's rubber stamping what had already been agreed. It's good news for retained firefighters.

"It will mean a mutual agreement between the authority and the individual, and allows slightly more flexibility."

Retained firefighters are split into full-cover and three-quarter-cover, depending on how much time they can give to the brigade.

The county requires 303 full-cover retained firefighters.

There are currently 313 retained firefighters serving Wiltshire. But only 76 of these offer full 24-hour cover.

This is the equivalent to only 254 full-cover firefighters, leaving a shortfall of 49. Station officer Hargreaves added: "It's quite complicated because it's not just a simple question of counting how many firefighters we have.

"We need to take into account the amount of cover they can offer.

"We are constantly on the lookout for new retained firefighters."

There are 25 fire stations across the county with attached retained units, including Swindon, in Drove Road, and Stratton St Margaret.

Westlea is the only station without a retained unit.

Traffic accidents kept the brigade busiest in April and May of this year, with almost 100 incidents, a slight increase on the same time last year.

The retirement of chief fire officer Neil Wright, 55, was also formally announced at the meeting, at the Brigade Training Centre, in Devizes.

Call the retained firefighter hotline 01380 731144 for more information.