South Yorkshire fire chief warns of depleted 999 service over strike period

James Courtney
James Courtney

South Yorkshire fire chiefs are warning the 999 emergency service will be ‘severely depleted’ when firefighters go on strike in the run-up to Bonfire Night.

The Fire Brigades Union called the four-day period of industrial action, which begins tomorrow and runs until Tuesday, as part of a long-running dispute with the Government over changes to pensions and job security fears.

There have been a series of walkouts over recent months because of both sides failing to reach an agreement.

Firefighters are angry at being expected to pay more into their pension pots and are concerned at a reducing number of jobs for firefighters no longer deemed fit.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service bosses have recruited ‘contingency firefighters’ to provide emergency cover over the strike period, but there will be fewer engines available than normal.

The strike is due to run from 6pm tomorrow until 6pm on Tuesday, November 4 - the day before Bonfire Night - but there are concerns due to the number of bonfire and firework parties and displays to be held this weekend.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney, said: “In a genuine emergency, we will get there, but it will take us longer than normal.

“With that in mind, now is the ideal time to test your smoke alarms and make sure you have an escape plan for getting out of your house quickly and safely in the event of a fire.

“This is the longest period of strike action to have been called so far, so we want to remind people to take extra care to stay safe and prevent fires.

“That includes taking extreme caution if you are planning on holding your own bonfire or fireworks display.

“With the strike days falling immediately before Bonfire Night, people are particularly being asked to take extreme caution with fireworks - or to attend organised displays instead.”

A fire service spokesman said: “Top tips for staying safe during the strike include never using a chip pan and never leaving cooking unattended.

“Test your smoke alarms and don’t take out the batteries. Make sure everyone in the house knows how to get out safely in the event of a fire.”