FIRE STRIKE UPDATE: “Extreme worry” over Havering fire cover

THERE is only one fire engine based within Havering and Dagenham during today’s strike, a Romford firefighter revealed.

Trevor McKeever, branch secretary for Havering Fire Brigade Union (FBU), said the situation was “extremely worrying” and urged residents to take extra care to avoid fire risks and road accidents.

Normally there are seven appliances across the two boroughs.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said there were 27 engines based throughout the Capital, replacing a normal service of 169, but they are not borough-specific.

It was also revealed that the back-up teams attended only 49 incidents out of 268 999 calls made during last Saturday’s strike (October 23).

However, the spokesman said “all necessary” calls were dealt with.

He added: “Clearly the contingency team can’t match the day-to-day service, but we have a responsibility to put in some sort of service in place.”

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The union and the fire brigade management met for crisis talks in central London yesterday (Sunday October 31) but the deadlock in the row over proposals to change shift patterns remained unbroken.

The emergency teams are mainly made up of truck drivers, Mc McKeever claimed, and have undergone just two weeks training.

This was refuted by the Brigade’s spokesman, who said an initial two-week training programme in 2009 had been followed up by rolling preparation during the past year.

In Dagenham, teams crossed the picket line during the first strike to assist covering crews, who were unable to find hydrants when dealing with a flat fire, according to the FBU.

“It’s very regrettable yet again we have had to go out on strike,” said Mr McKeever, “it’s something we do not wish to do, but the talks that were held on Sunday with senior management did not move anything forward.

“They are being stubborn and vindictive. We are being bullied and harassed by senior management.”

Around 150 firefighters in Havering are striking.