FIREFIGHTERS across the region walked out in a strike over pensions yesterday.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in North Wales and Cheshire left their stations and set up picket lines, leaving brigades to put into place contingency plans.
At Wrexham Fire Station about 10 firefighters picketed from noon until 4pm waving banners while motorists driving past sounded their horns in support.
Chief fire officer Simon Smith said there was one deliberate fire during the strike, which he described as disappointing.
He said he was pleased with how North Wales Fire and Rescue Service had managed its services during the strike action.
“As expected, the number of firefighters from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service who chose to strike was high, which resulted in a notable reduction in the resources we had at our disposal,” he said.
“We were unable to provide the same high level of response to incidents as we normally would and, as a consequence, prioritised our response to those in most critical need.
“The arrangements we put in place to provide a service during strike action worked well.
“The number of calls received and incidents attended was no different to that which we would normally expect on a weekday afternoon.
“I’m pleased to report that we maintained fire cover in all the main areas of population in North Wales, with appliances strategically placed such that we were confident throughout of being able to respond to incidents across the region.
“We had one incident of deliberate fire setting which is disappointing when our resources were stretched unnecessarily.”
The FBU is campaigning against changes to firefighters’ pensions, which it argues will mean firefighters will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement.
The move will see firefighters having to work on frontline duties until they are 60, the union argued.
But the Government maintained that the changes were fair and would still give firemen and women one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.
Rich Clutton, FBU representative for Wrexham, joined the striking firefighters outside the station.
He said: “The facts are that the Government recommends that firefighters have a normal pension age of 60. But obviously at 60 a firefighter is not as fit as they were at 18.
“Yet the Government are expecting them to maintain the same fitness levels.
“Under new proposals, they can be sacked under a capability policy if they don’t.”
Mr Clutton said if a firefighter gets sacked before 60, they will still have to wait until they are 60 to get their pension regardless of how long that may be.
Sue Fortune, a Wrexham resident who turned out to support the strike, said: “I’m 100 per cent behind the firefighters.
“We all depend on firefighters and they risk their lives for us.
“This attack on their pensions is stupid.
“These people should not be worked until they are ruined by their jobs.”
The FBU has also warned there could be more strikes in the future if the issue is not resolved.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to Government.
“Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.”