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VIDEO: South Yorkshire firefighters walk out as contingency crews tackle house fire

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Contingency firefighters are tackling a house blaze in Rotherham - while crews across the county are on strike.

Fire officers who are not part of the Fire Brigades Union have been joined at the scene by volunteers trained in basic firefighting skills.

The blaze, involving a roof on Nursery Road, North Anston, was reported at around 11.15am.

Neighbours said the homeowner was inside the house sleeping following a night shift.

Another woman living close to the property said it is thought the fire was caused by the solar panels which had recently been fitted.

Since firefighters walked out at 9am today contingency crews have also extinguished a hay fire in Scawsby, Doncaster.

They have also released a woman trapped in a bedroom on Meadowhall Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham and a teenage girl locked in a toilet on Moorgate Street, Rotherham.

There are normally 19 fire engines available for South Yorkshire on an average day, but today there are just eight.

Fire chiefs have warned that the strike, which ends at 9am tomorrow, will mean a severely depleted 999 response service.

The Fire Brigades Union is protesting against government proposals to increase the retirement age of firefighters to 60.

The FBU says it is ‘ludicrous’ that 60-year-olds would be expected to meet the same physical fitness standards as new recruits aged 20, and it would put more lives at risk.

South Yorkshire FBU chairman Graham Wilkinson said the decision to stage a 24-hour strike was ‘difficult.

“It’s difficult because we never joined the job to put people at risk,” he said.

“We know that escalating the strike periods to 24 hours poses more risk to the public but the public need to realise that this is about protecting the fire service for the future.”

They are striking over a new pension scheme introduced for firefighters in 2006, which raised the age of retirement to 60.

Older firefighters deemed physically unable to work on the frontline are supposed to be offered back office jobs but the FBU claims those roles are rapidly reducing as fire chiefs try to cut costs.

The union claims that aging firefighters will end up being ‘dismissed’ for failing fitness tests, putting them at risk of no income until they can draw their pensions at 67.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters simply will not give up fighting for their futures — and our fire and rescue service.

“Concerns over these unworkable proposals remain as valid and grave as ever, and the government has ignored all the evidence including it’s own reports.

“It is as ever a difficult decision for us to take, but the only way for us to resolve this unnecessary and costly dispute is for the government to start listening to reason.”

Fire officers said the best way residents can protect themselves and their families is to have working smoke alarms on every level of their homes.

With the World Cup due to get under way tonight, people are also being asked not to become distracted and leave their cooking unattended.

Chief fire officer James Courtney said: “This is the longest strike period called so far in this dispute, so we need to make sure people are switched on to the safety advice we are giving them.

“Our emergency response service will be significantly reduced, so the best way to stay protected is to have working smoke alarms on every level of your home. If you do discover a fire don’t attempt to tackle it yourself – get out, stay out and still call 999.

“We’re also mindful that quite a few people will be watching the football, but if you decide to cook, please don’t become distracted. If you go to the pub to watch it, don’t attempt to cook if you’ve had a drink - get a takeaway instead.”

As usual householders are being urged to never use chip pans, and to test smoke alarms.

What do you think about the strike? Do you support the firefighters’ actions? Are you concerned about the level of fire cover during the strike? Have your say below.

 

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