Firefighters were today said to be exhausted after dealing with weeks of “flooding hell” which has tested the service beyond its limit.
Tam McFarlane, FBU Executive Council member for south west England, said: “The last five weeks has seen the biggest sustained rescue and assistance effort since the Second World War.
“We have lost count of the numbers we have rescued but there have been hundreds in this region alone. Tens of thousands more have been evacuated to safety.
“Fire crews have worked with almost no sleep for days, carrying out rescues and pumping millions of gallons of water away from flooded areas."
The Fire Brigades Union said emergency control centres in areas such as Gloucester have received thousands of calls for help in the past few days.
In Gloucester, the number of calls in recent days has totalled a quarter of the usual 8,000 received in a year.
Hundreds of people have been rescued by fire crews, who have also delivered prescribed drugs to residents.
“Firefighters have worked in unbelievable conditions, often up to their waists in water for hours at a time, wearing and using equipment designed for fighting fires," said Mr McFarlane.
“Officers are exhausted by the effort and local fire controls have faced unprecedented numbers of calls for help. Having worked to help others for days, many fire service personnel have gone home to find their homes have been flooded.
“There will be many challenging days ahead and our communities need re-assurance in these troubling times.”