Fire chief’s warning to Sunderland as strike begins

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EMERGENCY-cover fire crews will take longer than normal to respond to calls during today’s strike, Tyne and Wear’s top man has warned.

Members of the Fire Brigades’ Union are walking out for four hours from noon today in a national dispute over pensions.

Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling

Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Chief Fire Officer Tom Capeling

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Tom Capeling said the brigade had contingency plans in place to provide cover for the duration of the strike.

But with fewer appliances on standby than usual, he said it would take longer to respond.

“In the case of industrial action, the fire authority and I have a legal duty to provide a fire and rescue service,” said Mr Capeling.

“The service has plans in place to offer a limited response service, based on a reduced number of appliances, strategically placed across Tyne and Wear according to risk and the ability to maintain the best speed of response.

“Fire officers and staff we have recruited and trained in recent weeks will drive and staff a number of our appliances –this includes recently-retired firefighters and staff the service has temporarily recruited who were successful during our last recruitment campaign, but for whom there were no vacancies at the time.

“It also includes former military and specialist personnel.

“The plan is not designed to replicate the excellent service our firefighters provide every day of the week.

“However, it is designed to provide a core service in the event of industrial action.”

Members of the public should still dial 999 in the event of an emergency.

“We will still be responding. We will continue to carry 
out rescues as required and to extinguish fires,” said Mr Capeling.

“Our control room is still operating as normal, and there will be an officer in the control room to carry out risk assessment as calls come in.”

As usual, calls in which lives are at risk will be given priority.

Mr Capeling appealed to the public to do their bit to help the service cope with the reduced availability of crews.

“We would ask the public to take extra care with fire safety during the strike period and ensure they have working smoke alarms on each floor of their property and that they check them,” he said.