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Blaze is put out as firefighters strike
FIREFIGHTERS’ back to back strikes over the weekend passed relatively quietly in Swindon with no incidents in the town and just two in the whole county.
Members of the Fire Brigade’s Union walked out between 6pm and 10pm on both Friday and Saturday in a bid to see plans to increase the retirement age to 60 and raise pension contributions to 14 per cent thrown out by the Government.
During the industrial action on Friday, Wiltshire Fire & Rescue was called to a house fire in Purton at 8.45pm. Firefighters also attended an incident in Moredon at 8.30pm, which ended up being a false alarm.
While crews at 10 of Wiltshire’s 24 fire stations were unavailable to respond to incidents during the strike, the fire service had put contingency plans in place to maintain cover across the county using on-call firefighters and alternative locations.
The resilience appliance operating in Swindon dealt with the false alarm in Moredon before attending a fire in Purton with a crew from Cricklade.
The small blaze in Reids Piece, caused by a cigarette which had been dropped on a kitchen chair, was quickly put out. An elderly man was treated for smoke inhalation by paramedics at the scene and taken to the Great Western Hospital as a precaution.
Area manager Julian Parsons said: “During the strike on Friday night, we had a small house fire in Purton. When the 999 call was first made by a neighbour, the occupant was still in the property. “Control firefighter Chris Lee kept the neighbour on the phone, talked him through how to persuade the occupant to leave, and gained valuable information. “Blue Watch Control team showed great professionalism in maintaining information flow, and that contributed to the occupant being removed from the house both quickly and safely.”
On Saturday, a serious blaze which significantly damaged a thatched house in Pewsey forced the service to mobilise crews from across Wiltshire including Royal Wootton Bassett at 5.45pm.
Strong winds caused the flames to spread rapidly throughout the roof and first floor.
Speaking about Friday’s strike, Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones said: “I was pleased that our contingency plans worked well. However, we cannot become complacent, and we know that continued industrial action will undoubtedly have an impact.”
These were the fifth and sixth strikes staged by FBU in months.
A ballot in November showed overwhelming support for action short of a strike, which the union said would allow it to make its case without disrupting services.
Brent Thorley, secretary of the South West branch of the Fire Brigade Union, said members were determined to reach a fair deal. “All we want is for the government to talk with us but the Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, has not spoken to us since August.”