Fires could be ignored during brigade strike

PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 September 2013

New Avon Fire Service Engines.

New Avon Fire Service Engines.

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FIREFIGHTERS will be choosing which 999 emergencies to attend and which to ignore when crews go on strike this week.

Crewmembers with the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will be staging a four-hour walk-out on Wednesday alongside colleagues around the country.

The move is part of the union’s long-running dispute with the Government over pensions – but could mean some fires go unattended.

Avon Fire and Rescue Service admits it will be ‘prioritising calls to emergencies where there is a risk to life’, with a radically-reduced skeleton service operating from just ‘six strategic locations’ around its area.

When pressed by the Mercury on Tuesday, the service was staying tight-lipped on whether any crews would be based in Weston during the strike action.

Chief Fire Officer Kevin Pearson said: “This is a national dispute over which Avon Fire Authority has no control.

“Although we have contingency arrangements in place, the reality is we will not be in a position to provide the excellent emergency response we usually do.”

Non-union firefighters will provide the bulk of the cover, supplemented by a small number of auxiliary firefighters who have been trained to offer basic support.

However, Mr Pearson says it is important for people to do everything possible to keep themselves safe while the service is compromised between noon and 4pm on Wednesday.

Mr Pearson said: “In the lead up to and during the strike I would ask local people to take steps to ensure their homes and businesses are as safe as possible.

“Although it’s good practice anytime, it’s particularly important during a period when our emergency response capability will be reduced. Although we will be prioritising calls our advice remains the same - if you have a fire you should get out, stay out and call 999.”

Avon firefighters will be joined in the walk-out by their counterparts with the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

Chief Fire Officer there, Lee Howell, said: “Like all other fire and rescue services, we have contingency plans prepared and will now put these arrangements in place ahead of the first strike.

“We will continue to respond to 999 calls and will do everything we can to keep the public safe.”

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