A 12-week public consultation has been launched on fire service plans to cut down on staffing for turntable ladders, with a loss of 32 jobs in Devon.
The ladders are currently manned by permanent crews
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service announced the consultation after a day of talks with the Fire Authority and Fire Brigades Union.
Under the plans, eight turntable ladders would be manned by crews instead of dedicated staff.
A union spokesman said the move could delay response times.
The ladders, also known as aerial platforms, are used to reach high level flames, and currently are manned by permanent crews.
The fire service is now to consult on relying on a pool of firefighters to crew the ladders instead. The nearest ladders would be sent to incidents when required, which the union says could lead to delays of up 30 minutes.
Stations in Plymouth's Camel's Head, Torquay, Barnstaple and Exeter would each lose eight dedicated staff.
Dave Chappell of the FBU said: "It has a double effect. It will mean the potential for a fire to get much bigger, to get worse.
"It will also mean that the firefighters who have to fight the fire will not necessarily have the means to fight the fire properly. If it is not a fire, it could be a rescue, then people will have to wait."
The fire service says the measure could save them about £1m a year.
Chief fire officer Paul Young said: "Nobody wants to see unnecessary reductions in staffing levels in the fire and rescue service.
"What we want to do now is to embark on a consultation exercise to ensure that any decision that is taken in the future is appropriate. We won't make any changes until we have fully consulted and worked with the union."