Take care warning as fire crews go on strike

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Fire chiefs have urged people to take extra care during festive celebrations tonight because of a strike by firefighters in their bitter row with the Government over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in England and Wales will walk out for five hours from 7pm, followed by further stoppages on New Year’s Eve and on January 3.

The union has already called six strikes since September in protest at changes to pensions and retirement age, which it warned threatened firefighters in their late 50s with being sacked.

The union placed adverts in national newspapers today accusing the Government of “attacking” pensions, “ripping up” agreements and threatening firefighters in their 50s with dismissal.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters provide a first class standard of service, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and these strikes will remind Government just how reliant they are on our members’ professionalism, commitment and flexibility.”

The next strike will be for six hours from 6.30pm on New Year’s Eve, then for two hours from 6.30am on January 3, which will be the ninth round of industrial action since the row flared.

FBU members in Scotland will take action for the first time in the dispute by joining a ban on overtime for 48 hours from 7pm on December 27.

London’s Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson expressed concern about house fires during the festive period, as the brigade launched its Christmas safety campaign to remind people to take steps to prevent fires at home, including taking care with candles and fairy lights. He said: “Contingency plans are in place but we’re urging people to take care, to be sensible. Fire brigades could be very busy during the strikes.”

The campaign features a stark image of a Christmas tree that was destroyed in a fire caused by a candle being left too close.