STRIKING firefighters have warned residents to take extra care over the bank holiday weekend as services are set to be reduced across the region.
The strike, which started yesterday, means fire stations at Southsea, Cosham, Fareham and Gosport will shut down between 2pm today and 2am tomorrow, and again tomorrow from 10am to 3pm.
Hampshire Fire Brigades Union chairman Nigel McCullen said that non-striking firefighters from other stations would still be able to respond to emergencies, but people should be extra wary of the risk of fires.
Mr McCullen said people should remember to be careful with barbecues, check smoke alarms, take care in the kitchen and drive safely.
He said: ‘There will be a vastly reduced service in Hampshire.
‘I would urge members of the public to be extra vigilant in their homes and especially if they’re having barbecues.’
Mr McCullen said striking firefighters would return to work if a major fire happened.
He said: ‘We have negotiated a plan, whereby should a major incident occur we would come back into work to attend that.’
The strike is part of a long-running battle with the government over pensions and penalties if firefighters fail fitness tests past the age of 55.
Mr McCullen said: ‘Most firefighters will be paying £4,000 a year into the scheme, but if you can’t pass a fitness test at 56 your pension will be reduced by 46 per cent or you can be sacked on capability.’
Mr McCullen said he expected ‘a vast majority’ of the union’s 700 members across Hampshire would go on strike.
He said: ‘They’ve basically ripped up the pension we have already and are refusing to look at the arguments we’ve put forward.
‘Unfortunately they haven’t put forward any new proposals so we find ourselves on strike.’
A government spokesperson said that firefighters had ‘one of the most generous pension schemes in all the public sector’.