fbuLDNFirefighters in England and Wales went on strike for four hours from midday today in a dispute over pensions.

Unions say it is a "warning shot to the government" over members' anger about making them work until they are 60.

Ministers say the action is unnecessary and the pension offer is one of the most generous in the public sector.

Each of the 46 local fire services in England and three in Wales had contingency plans to provide cover but the strikes went off without major incidents in the vast majority of areas.

Good turn out under sad circumstances
Firefighter for Green Watch at Newbury Fire Station, Robin Whitman, who is also the bridage organiser and an FBU member, said: “It has been a good turn out under sad circumstances.

"I hate to say we have had a good turn out because actually we don’t want this, we just feel this is the only course left at the moment to get negotiations going again.

"This has been a campaign that has been ongoing for the last two years now, with regard to our pensions.

"We are after more protection around what comes with getting older. Obviously firefighting is an arduous occupation, it’s a dangerous one at times, too, and as we get older we are obviously not as fit and this could see some of our members failing fitness tests…they could end up being dismissed.”

"We are always hopeful that it will change something, we wouldn’t take this course of action if we didn’t believe it would change anything."

'Disappointed with the union's actions'
Responding to the start of the strike earlier in the day, Fire minister Brandon Lewis: "We are very disappointed the union have taken this action"

"Now that the Fire Brigades Union is pressing ahead with this unnecessary and avoidable strike, maintaining public safety is our first priority.

"I can reassure the public that all fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales have robust contingency plans in place.

"Incidents and call-outs are at an historical low - but in the event of a fire, the advice to people remains the same: 'Get out, stay out and call 999'; you will get an emergency response."

Impact on ESS
Despite a warning from Paul Fuller, head of the Bedfordshire Fire Service, that it would not be "business as usual", one of the main areas a lack of fire presence was shown was at the Emergency Services Show in Birmingham.

Even though there was a lack of fire presence in the arena, the event still saw demonstrations from the Fire Service College, College of Paramedics and JESIP among many other, all of which we will have video footage on later this week.