A THREE-DAY strike by firefighters was set to start today with brigade bosses urging the community to take extra care during the industrial action.
Firefighters in Hartlepool and East Durham were due to walk out from noon-5pm today, from 2pm-2am tomorrow and between 10am and 3pm on Sunday as the bitter row with the Government over pensions rumbles on.
Cleveland Fire Brigade will still be responding to 999 call-outs during the industrial action.
But chief fire officer Ian Hayton is reminding residents of some simple safety tips to stay safe over the bank holiday weekend.
Mr Hayton said: “While the industrial action is ongoing we will still be responding to 999 calls, but we are asking members of the public to take extra care.
“Fires can start for a variety of reasons, from cooking being left unattended to electrical faults.
“The best advice we can give everyone is to have working smoke alarms in their home and to check them every week.
“The tragic fires in Sheffield and Leeds that occurred in the last week, and resulted in the deaths of seven people, show how dangerous fire is and underline why it’s so important to take extra care, particularly when people are at home.”
This weekend’s strike is the latest walkout in a string of protests which started at the end of last year and is due to a row surrounding pension arrangements between the Fire Brigades Union and the Government.
Mr Hayton previously called for members of the public to volunteer as temporary firefighters to answer 999 calls during the recent strike action.
He has warned residents that Cleveland Fire Brigade will need to prioritise incidents during the walkout.
He added: “Our priority during this industrial action period, as with previous ones, is to respond to those priority calls where a life may be at risk or someone needs to be rescued.
“If we respond to non-emergency calls then those most in need could be at risk.
“During strike action we do find ourselves in an unusual situation where we must prioritise our calls for those who are most in need of our assistance.
“However, I must emphasise that you should still call 999 in an emergency so that an experienced control room operator can deal with your situation.”
Mr Hayton warned residents against cooking when they come home from a night out over the weekend.
He also urged people to ensure their car is roadworthy and maintained.
People are also advised to check for a working smoke alarm, and to switch off all electrical appliances that don’t need to be left on over the weekend.
Cookers and grills should be kept clean while residents are warned against drinking and frying food at the same time.
They were also told to always stay by the pan while cooking their meals.