Fire crews are being “significantly delayed” when trying to respond to 999 calls because of drivers blocking the station exit, it has emerged.

In the last two months, an increasing number of drivers are said to have left their cars in the forecourt of the fire station in Old Station Road, Loughton.

Firefighters say they have been forced to waste precious time manoeuvring the engines out of tight gaps between cars.

Station Commander Kevin Haywood says drivers are putting people in danger.

He said: “We say this all the time because it is true, every second counts when we are responding to an emergency call.

“It takes the engines tens of seconds, to a minute, to get out when people have parked in front of the station.

“People are having to jump off and direct the engine backwards and forwards. That is time we just cannot afford.

Friday and Saturday nights are when the problem is at its worst.

Mr Haywood says the service needs help from the community to highlight the problem.

“We could be trying to respond to one of their loved ones,” he said.

He added: “People may assume that the station is closed but it is fully operational 24 hours per day seven days a week.

“We had some work done on the front of the station where the road was a bit worn and the lines were covered over. That was around end of January.

“Since then there have been around five or six occasions where we have had to move around parked cars.

“We understand that parking spaces are limited and that people may be from out of the area and now know but we need residents to spread the word that it is costing us time."