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31 October 2014, 07:34
A 96-hour walkout by firefighters across the South Coast gets underway this evening (Friday 31 October) coinciding with Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union will take part in their longest strike yet, in their long-running dispute with the Government over pension changes. It starts at 6pmand ends at 6pm on Tuesday (4 November).
People are being advised crews will still answer emergency calls but may be slower than usual to respond.
Hampshire's Assistant Chief Officer Neil Odin, head of community safety at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:
"Leave the fireworks and the bonfires to the experts this weekend and attend one of the many fantastic displays being organised around Hampshire.
"While we will still be responding to 999 calls, the strike action is inevitably going to impact on our response times, so reducing the risk of accidents will help us to prioritise the resources we have.
"We want people to enjoy all the spectacular sights and sounds of this time of year, but leave the safety arrangements to the event organisers while you worry about tucking into a hot dog."
Hampshire's retained firefighters will once again step up to help provide emergency cover, while agreements also remain in place with the FBU for striking firefighters to return to duty should a major emergency occur.
ACO Odin added: "999 calls during previous industrial action periods have dropped by up to 60% and we are extremely grateful for the public's help in cutting down unnecessary accidents.
"We would again ask the public to only call 999 if there is a genuine need for a fire engine as we will need to prioritise calls where lives may be at risk."
Dorset's Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter said: "As with the previous strikes we will once again be putting our contingency arrangements in place. We are disappointed the FBU and the Government have not been able to come to an agreement about the Firefighters pension scheme at this stage. It is important to stress that this is a national dispute.
He added: "We have put plans in place to ensure Dorset Fire and Rescue is able to respond to incidents, but we would ask members of the public to take extra steps to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in their home. We will continue to work with all our partners locally to ensure businesses; homes and our environment can be kept as safe as possible from fire during these periods of industrial action."
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service will continue to warn the public about the dangers of fire and what they can do to prevent it in the lead up to this strike action. That advice will include information on bonfires and fireworks, as the strike action will take place in the lead up to bonfire night.