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Fire service reminder to take extra care during firefighters strike
FIRE chiefs in the North-East and North Yorkshire are urging people to take extra care as contingency plans are put in place to deal with a strike by firefighters today (Wednesday, September 25).
Fire services across the region will be operating a limited emergency service when members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) walk out for four hours from noon, in the first national stoppage for a decade.
The union is campaigning against changes it says will mean firefighters will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling said: “As with all fire and rescue services, military support and the green goddesses are no longer an option to us in carrying out our duty to protect the public.
“The service has plans in place to offer a limited response service during industrial action.
“Although it is a limited response, we will not be able to replace the 30 appliances we would normally have on the streets.
“But they will continue to respond to rescue people if required, to extinguish fires and also attend any road traffic collisions.”
Mr Capeling said the service had trained fire service officers and staff had been recruited in recent weeks to drive and staff a number of appliances.
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service deputy chief fire officer Stuart Errington said: “I would urge people to test their smoke alarms, be extra careful in the kitchen – where most fires begin.
“Plan an escape route at work and at home and make sure your family and colleagues know how to get out quickly.”
Fire stations in the more rural areas of North Yorkshire are mainly unaffected by the strike action, as the majority of them are crewed by retained (part time/on-call) firefighters, many of whom are not members of the FBU.
A North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “In the larger towns we are providing some additional fully-trained staff to make up crewing numbers and ensure that there is fire cover in place across the area. "
Cleveland Fire Brigade has said it has robust arrangements in place to provide emergency cover, including professional crews supported by recently-trained auxiliary firefighters.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: ''This initial strike is a warning shot to government.
“Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions. Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.
''None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.''
Fire minister Brandon Lewis said: ''Now that the Fire Brigade Union is pressing ahead with this unnecessary and avoidable strike maintaining public safety is our first priority.
''I can reassure the public that all fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales have robust contingency plans in place.”
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