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Bonfires warning as fire crews go on strike
8:00am Thursday 31st October 2013 in News
Householders have been urged to think twice before holding bonfire celebrations tomorrow night when firefighters stage a five-and-a-half hour strike.
The strike will be followed by a further walk out on Monday, between 6am and 8am, and falls on one of the busiest weekends of the year for the fire service as people begin the countdown to November 5.
Tomorrow’s national strike over pensions will see the full-time station in Chippenham closed from 6pm to 11.30pm, along with the part-time stations in Calne and Pewsey, leaving a reduced service to deal with any emergency call-outs.
Brent Thorley, Wiltshire Brigade Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, suggested people abandon plans to have a bonfire tomorrow.
He said: “I think people understand, and will know we are going on strike, but if they decide to let off fireworks and light bonfires that’s a risk they are taking. They can always have it on another day.
“I know some big events have been organised, but this is our pensions on the line.
“It might be a sensible option to cancel your plans, but if the events are well-organised they should be fine.”
Andy Thompson, Chippenham branch rep for the FBU, said the timing of the strikes was not deliberately chosen to coincide with the start of the fireworks celebrations. “Historically a lot of calls don’t seem to come in on those nights,” he said. “The majority of parties will be on Saturday.”
He said he would not advise people not to have bonfires but just to “have a sensible approach and be careful and safe”.
Organisers of the annual fireworks display at Biddestone Village Hall considered cancelling in light of the strike. But village hall bookings secretary Colin Kempshall said: “We are going ahead with our fireworks display, we always take great safety precautions, and I understand they are still taking emergency calls if the village hall does go up.
“A lot of time and effort always goes into planning the display, which is purely for raising funds for the village hall, a registered charity.”
The strike is the third proposed by the union in the last six weeks. A four-hour walkout took place on September 25, while action planned for October 19 was cancelled a day in advance.
Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service will have crews on standby from alternative locations around the county, but are warning they will be taking longer than usual to respond to 999 calls.
Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones said: “With both Bonfire Night and Diwali likely to be celebrated this weekend, it’s even more important than normal for people to take extra care.”
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