FIRE chiefs have moved to assure residents that contingency plans are in place after firefighters voted almost 4-1 in favour of strikes in a row over pensions.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) yesterday balloted for industrial action, threatening the first national walkout in over a decade.
The Cleveland and County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue authorities say they hope it will not come to that stage and that negotiations are continuing, though contingency plans are in place should the strike go ahead.
Cleveland Fire Brigade’s chief fire officer Ian Hayton said: “We hope that a workable solution can be negotiated between the Government and trade union that will put a halt to possible strike action.
“As a chief fire officer responsible for public protection, I won’t agree with such action because it would endanger the public and of course the firefighters who will continue to work.”
Mr Hayton sparked controversy in July when he called for members of the public to volunteer as temporary firefighters to answer 999 calls.
He said since then 60 volunteers have been training as auxiliary firefighters to fight fires from outside, driving appliances, running out hoses and putting up ladders.
They are being paid £10 per hour for training and will receive the full firefighter rate if they are called out should a strike be enforced.
County Durham and Darlington counterparts say they are disappointed with news of the ballot.
The service will use trained fire officers to drive and staff fire appliances and other emergency
response vehicles during any potential strike.
In the lead-up to and during any strike action, both services will be raising community awareness of fire safety.
Durham and Darlington’s deputy chief fire officer Stuart Errington said: “We are still hopeful both the Government and the FBU will commit to further construction negotiations to avoid the threat of a national fire strike.”
To book a home fire safety check, in Hartlepool call (01429) 872311 and in East Durham call (0191) 3324222.