South Yorkshire fire chief’s plea on strike day

Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney
Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney
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South Yorkshire residents are being urged not to make ‘unnecessary’ 999 calls during today’s fire strike - as chiefs say crews will be able to attend only the most urgent incidents.

Firefighters are walking out today for four hours from noon to 4pm.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will have around eight fire engines and four small incident units to cover the whole county, and contingency staff are standing by.

Chief fire officer Jamie Courtney said the brigade will still be responding to 999 calls - but said people should call the number only ‘if they really do need a fire engine’.

“Our priority will be to respond to priority calls where a life may be at risk or someone needs to be rescued,” he said.

“If we respond to non-emergency calls then those most in need could be at risk.

“A non-emergency call could be to someone who is locked outside their house or where debris has fallen in the road. There are other agencies and organisations that can help in this instance.”

Mr Courtney added: “We do find ourselves in an unusual situation where we must prioritise our calls for those who need us the most.

“But I must emphasise that you should still call 999 in a genuine emergency, so that an experienced control room operator can deal with your situation. You must not try to call your local fire station directly.”

He said residents should make sure they have working smoke alarms.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades’ Union general secretary, said today’s strike - taking place over an escalating row about pensions - was ‘a warning shot to government’.

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety,” he said.

Meanwhile, the NHS in Sheffield has reviewed evacuation procedures, and staff at the city’s hospitals have received extra training in the use of extinguishers.

It is the first nationwide fire strike for more than a decade.