Brigade warning on strike response
Calls about gas leaks, grass and rubbish fires, animal rescues, flooding and people shut in lifts may not be answered during a national firefighters' strike this week, a leading brigade has warned.
The London authority said it will respond to 999 calls during a four-hour walkout from noon in England and Wales on Wednesday, but urged people to take extra care to prevent fires happening in the first place.
The brigade said it had plans in place to provide a "contingency" level of emergency cover across the capital during the strike and a fire engine will be sent to emergencies including fires in people's homes, vehicle fires, road accidents and collapsed buildings.
But one of the 27 fire engines to be used during the strike may not be sent to less urgent and non-life-threatening incidents such as rubbish fires (including fires in bins and skips), fires on open ground, animal rescues, flooding, people stuck in lifts and gas leaks.
The brigade has launched a campaign to encourage people to take steps to prevent fires in the home during the strike and has sent leaflets containing fire safety information to hospitals, local authorities, transport operators and charity groups. Large animal rescues will be referred to the RSPCA, the brigade added.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "Our plans were tried and tested during the industrial action taken by the London FBU in October and November 2010, and they will mean that every area of London has fire cover. We will still attend emergencies but the contingency service is not intended to match the Brigade's normal day-to-day cover, so it is important that people take extra care, have working smoke alarms and take fire safety seriously."
Members of the Fire Brigades Union will take industrial action in a long-running row over pensions. FBU members in Scotland will not be taking action while the union discusses proposals put forward by the Scottish Government.
General secretary Matt Wrack said the walkout was a "warning shot" to the Government, adding it was "ludicrous" to expect firefighters tackle blazes and rescue people into their late 50s. "None of us want a strike but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety," he added.
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: "The decision by the FBU to take strike action is entirely unnecessary and avoidable. After two years of discussions, and with improved terms, the pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous public service pensions available. A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000-a-year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension.
"To get the same pension from a private scheme, firefighters would have to contribute twice as much. All 46 fire and rescue authorities in England have robust contingency plans in place."