FIRE union chiefs have dismissed suggestions they acted irresponsibly in co-ordinating strikes in the build up to Bonfire Night.
Firefighters are facing a backlash over the decision to walk out tonight on one of their busiest nights of the year - with more strikes set to follow on Monday morning.
Crews will be back on duty tomorrow with many fireworks displays set to take place across the region.
The ongoing saga over pensions has led to the latest strikes but any sympathy for the firefighters’ situation on the streets of Burton town centre seems to have been replaced by anger due to the timing of the action.
Fire service bosses have insisted crews will still be able to respond to emergencies during the strike periods.
But one shopper said firefighters were ‘putting lives at risk’.
Maurice Simons, from Brizlincote Valley, added: “It’s terrible. It is a risk, they should be on standby.
“I don’t have sympathy with strikers. They are striking now to make a point.”
Another shopper, Jackie O’Connell, said: “It’s not what we need at the moment, not this weekend. I do sympathise with them, but there will be a lot of bonfires this weekend. This is when we need them the most.”
Barry Downey, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in Staffordshire, was unrepentant about the timing of the strikes.
He said: “To be honest and brutal, industrial action has got be disruptive to have an effect. We always advise people to go to organised bonfires, it’s the safest place. If people are worried, they shouldn’t be having fires or setting off fireworks in their garden.
“We don’t want to put anyone at undue risk, but if the proposals go ahead, it will put workers and the public at risk in the future.”
Etwall Cricket Club’s fireworks display is set to go ahead as planned tonight, though organisers admitted they would have considered cancelling a bonfire.
Joe Webster, from the club, said: “The fireworks are managed by a professional company who have all the safety equipment. We have run this event for 11 years and we have never had any issues.”