South Yorkshire fire chiefs ready for strike

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney
Chief Fire Officer James Courtney

South Yorkshire’s fire chief is preparing for frontline duty – geared up to tackle blazes while his firefighters strike.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney, of South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, will be ready to respond to 999 calls in Sheffield on one of only eight fire engines available to cover the county during the strike, which starts today.

For the next eight days, firefighters will walk out between noon and 2pm and then between 11pm and midnight in an ongoing dispute with the Government over pensions and job security.

South Yorkshire fire chiefs have recruited a team of 40 contingency firefighters to provide emergency cover during the industrial action, with another 20 currently undergoing training.

There are normally 19 engines crewed on a full-time basis and another six part-time. However, during the strike action, there will only be eight appliances, an aerial ladder platform and a small incident vehicle.

Mr Courtney said: “We need people to be vigilant – there will be fewer appliances available than normal.

“I will be riding a fire appliance for all but four of the periods of strike action.

“I wish it was not necessary for officers to be in this position, but getting the opportunity to remind ourselves why we are all here does have some value.

“We’ve all been on the frontline before and come up through the ranks and it does not harm us to reacquaint ourselves from time to time.”

He said he fears it may only be ‘a matter of time’ before a ‘challenging incident’ coincides with a period of strike action.

“We have had some challenging incidents over recent months and have been fortunate they have not occurred during periods of industrial action.

“Statistically, it will only be a matter of time.”