Firefighters from Market Harborough could soon be asked to attend medical 999 emergencies under a new pilot scheme.
The First Responders project means fire crews could attend medical 999s, if they are nearer to the emergency than the nearest ambulance.
An under-pressure health service has been developing the plans for months that could see fire crews act as emergency cover for over-stretched ambulance staff.
The scheme is thought to be particularly valuable in large rural areas, like the Harborough district.
Steve Lunn, assistant chief of the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The bottom line is it’s about lives saved.
“If Mr Smith is saved from a heart attack, Mrs Smith isn’t going to worry whether it’s by people in an ambulance or a two firefighters in a car.
“And for us it’s about the financial landscape we find ourselves in, and how we best utilise the resources we’ve got.
“And it’s about potentially strengthening the relationship between the different 999 service.”
Market Harborough is one of at least three areas in Leicestershire – the others are Ashby and Melton – where the scheme could be put on trial.
How the additional cost to the fire service – in equipment and staff time – will be accommodated has still to be worked out.
Graham Vaux, of the Leicestershire Fire Brigades’ Union, said he was concerned that the fire service would lose out financially because of the extra work.
And he said: “Yes, we fire officers do of course have first-aid knowledge, but we’re not paramedics. The ambulance service is struggling to cope – we understand that – but it shouldn’t be a firefighter’s job to bail them out.”