IT was supposed to be a four-hour stand by firefighters to show the Government that they would not stand idle while changes were made to their pensions.
But in the aftermath of Wednesday’s industrial action, senior officials at the Fire Brigades Union have now revealed that they are not ruling out further strikes as they attempt to jump-start negotiations to ensure fire crews are not hit in the pocket by potential pension and work changes and public safety is not put at risk.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This was solidly supported strike action by firefighters across England.
“It has demonstrated their anger and their determination.
“This strike was a last resort after the government refused to negotiate – and a warning shot that firefighters are serious about keeping a fair, safe and workable pensions scheme.
“We haven’t ruled out further industrial action, but let’s hope commonsense wins out, public safety is put first and the government comes back open to compromise.”
As firefighters downed tools across Burton and South Derbyshire, fears had arisen that safety across both areas could be seriously at risk.
However, fire services in Staffordshire and Derbyshire worked hard to minimise any threat to the public.
Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service reported that it received zero 999 emergency calls during the first two hours of the industrial action, however it did receive three emergency calls in the following two hours.
One call regarding a controlled burning of waste did not require an emergency response.
However, five volunteer firefighters were mobilised to a skip fire in the county.
Nine fire engines, crewed by a combination of reservist fire crew and operational staff not taking part in industrial action, were deployed to strategic locations across the area.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said it dealt with four emergency call-outs during the strike and that 999 calls were down by more than half during the four-hour strike period.
Staffordshire’s chief fire officer Peter Dartford said: “The safety of residents and firefighters is of paramount importance to the service and we put a robust and carefully considered contingency plan in place to deal with emergency calls throughout the national strike.
“Our appliances, which were down from 42 to 19, were strategically located around the county in order to provide cover which was as coherent as possible.
“A vital part of our plan was to keep the community informed of the situation, through the media, social media, community safety activity and working closely with our partners, and to advise people of the various home and road safety precautions they could take to protect themselves.
“I would like to commend residents and motorists on taking heed of the warnings we issued and of only dialling 999 only in genuine emergencies.
“However these messages don’t just apply during a strike – this is sound advice for all times and we urge residents to take these simple steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
His words of praise were echoed by his counterpart in Derbyshire.
Chief fire officer and chief executive Sean Frayne said: “My ultimate aim on any day of the week is to ensure the safety of everyone in the Derbyshire community.
“A combination of operational personnel not taking part in industrial action and members of the public who answered our call for assistance and undertook training to become reservist fire crew, have helped to keep Derbyshire safe this afternoon by ensuring that the service were able to satisfy its statutory duty to provide an emergency response service.
“I would like to thank the communities of Derbyshire for heeding our prevention and safety advice and working with us to safeguard themselves during the industrial action.”
Mr Frayne has now called on the FBU and the Government to get back around the table to thrash out a deal that will prevent further strikes and stabilise the future for firefighters and ensure the safety of the public.