FIREFIGHTERS in Torquay have defended their decision to strike on Wednesday.
Members of the Fire Brigades’ Union stopped working at 12 noon and will not go back until 4pm.
It is part of a nationwide action called by the union in a protest over pensions and frontline working till 60.
Scott Atkins, FBU branch chairman for Torquay, said the strike was fully justified.
“It is a very difficult time for frontline firefighters and none of us want to take this action, not one single person.
“We have been forced into this by the English fire minister. There is a proposal from the fire minister in Scotland and the FBU are looking at sitting down and negotiating with him.
“But the English fire minister has put up a wall and saying there can be no more talking — it is take it or leave it.”
Unions are unhappy that firefighters aged over 50, who are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires, could face the sack and lose their pensions.
“It puts the public at risk to have firefighters working on the frontline until 60,” says Scott.
“There are also continuing rises in contributions rates and dismissal if you are unable to meet high fitness standards.”
Fire service bosses have urged people to take extra care during that period when a pool of non-FBU firefighters will be used to respond to 999 calls.
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said: “The majority of our stations will be available and the public will get a response to an emergency wherever they are in Devon and Somerset.
“Although there will always be a response, due to the likelihood of a reduced service, we will be prioritising calls to emergencies where there is a risk to life.”