THE FIRE service in the South West has vowed to protect the public from the storms and gales sweeping the region today, despite a national strike being held.
Firefighters in England and Wales are once again staging walkouts between 6.30am and 8.30am in protest at plans to change their pension and retirement rights.
Fears had been raised that public safety could be put in jeopardy, with high risks of flooding, strong winds and 30ft waves leading police to declare a major incident.
However, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said yesterday that agreements had been reached that allow striking firefighters to be recalled to duty on a voluntary basis in the event of certain major incidents.
He said: “These agreements are designed for very specific circumstances and rely on the goodwill of firefighters. They should therefore not be abused. We will monitor the situation closely and liaise with the management of the fire and rescue services involved.
“In the event that the situation develops as predicted then we will respond in line with our major incident agreement. We have previously shown that where safety is significantly threatened firefighters have set aside their differences with government to put the public first.
“This should demonstrate very clearly the commitment of the FBU to public safety.”
During an earlier strike on Christmas Eve, such arrangements were invoked with the agreement of local union officials in Kent and Surrey. Striking firefighters in Kent and Surrey remained at work to deal with serious flooding incidents.
The UK government plans to raise firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions.