Firefighter strike: Semi-trained officers to stand in during strike as Manchester urged to ‘take extra care’

By Sean Butters

‘Sufficient’ cover will be in place during a planned four-hour strike on Wednesday between the Fire Brigades Union and the government over pension disputes, according to Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

The strike will begin at noon but the 200 trained personnel available during the strike will only have had basic training.

The stand in crew will only have had three weeks training which includes firefighting, wearing breathing apparatus and dealing with road traffic-collisions but they will not be trained to the same level as professional firefighters.

Speaking at a press briefing today at the GMFRS Training and Development Centre, Director of Emergency Response Paul Argyle, said: “We’ve arranged to have up to 21 firefighters strategically placed across the county, they will be crewed by emergency fire crews, and we will also have each of those appliances supervised by a professional fire officer.

“It is a basic emergency service, but relative to the country our provisions are as good as any and better than most.

“We urge the public to take extra care.”

During the strike the fire service will respond to emergencies only, with calls to be prioritised and they will not respond to automatic fire alarms or people trapped in lifts.

The proposed government plan that sparked the strike stipulates that firefighters would be entitled to full pensions once they reach the age of 60, an offer that the government has called ‘generous’.

However, the Union see things differently, and claim that the proposal means that firefighters who retire or are unable to work at age 55 would lose around half of their pension.

The government has said that the strike action is ‘unnecessary and unavoidable’.

Upon the announcement of the strike last week, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told the BBC:“This initial strike is a warning shot to government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.

“Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.”

The Chairman of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, Councilor David Acton, understands why the strike action is taking place, and believes the government should be taking a more practical approach in settling the dispute.

“I have sympathy with the union, and I think the government has a responsibility to sit down and talk to the union to see if they can find a resolution that suits both sides,” he said.

County Fire Officer Steve McGuirk said: “We have recruited and trained an Emergency Fire Crew to provide fire cover. This will be much reduced from our usual service with fewer engines attending a limited range of incidents and we will be prioritising calls.

“Local people need to start thinking about their own safety – make sure they have a working smoke alarm, know the main causes of fire, have a fire escape plan and carry out a bedtime routine.

“For more information please check our website and follow our social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter.”

Advice from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service:

Road Safety

If you’re on the roads during the strike, take extra care – you can read advice for safer driving on our website

By staying vigilant and following these simple tips you can avoid being involved in a crash on the roads.

Reduce your speed and give yourself time to react – you never know what’s around the corner.

Never use your mobile phone when driving, pull over somewhere safe before making or taking a call.

Always wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers are wearing theirs.

Keep your distance – remember the two second rule. Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front.

If you are feel tired take a break – driving while tired can be lethal.

Drive for the conditions – in wet weather stopping distances are at least double those for stopping on dry roads.

Home Safety

Now more than ever residents need to think about fire safety at home.

Most fires in the home are preventable and you can help to prevent them by following the advice on the GMFRS website at

By taking extra care, being vigilant and following the steps below you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from danger during industrial action.

If you would like to book a Home Safety Check, which may include the fitting of smoke alarms please call 0800 555 815.

Steps you can take to help yourself and reduce the demand on the basic fire cover that GMFRS is providing on Wednesday, September 25:

Get a working smoke alarm
Know what could cause a fire in your home and make sure you and your family know how to prevent it.
Plan your escape in case there is a fire.
Look out for family and neighbours.
Only dial 999 in a genuine emergency.

Dialling 999

The priority of the Service on Wednesday afternoon will be to respond to priority calls where a life may be at risk or someone needs to be rescued.

If GMFRS responds to non-emergency calls then those most in need could be at risk.

A non-emergency call could be to someone who is locked outside their house or where debris has fallen in the road – there are other agencies and organisations that can help in this instance.

However, you should still call 999 in an emergency so that an experienced Control Room operator can deal with your situation and please don’t call your local fire station directly.

For further information on taking extra care during the strike, please visit

Image courtesy of GMFRS via Youtube, with thanks.

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