Industrial action

Update issued at 00:35hrs Sunday 17 August 2014:

At the start of last night’s hour of industrial action by firefighters, at 22.59pm, six fire engines were at the scene of a fire in a disused factory unit in Doulton Road, Rowley Regis.

We were called there at 10.22pm. The crews remained at the scene in spite of the strike. Two of our strike contingency crews were sent there after 11pm.

At the time of this update, our presence is being scaled down and around 15 personnel remain.

Our contingency crews attended three other incidents during the hour:

11.02pm Walsall: garden fire
11.19pm Ladywood, Birmingham: automatic fire alarm, false alarm
11.35pm Sparkhill, Birmingham: garden fire.

We had ten fire engines available to deploy during the hour, plus one acting as a Brigade Response Vehicle (crew of three) and one actual BRV.

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Update issued at 2.15pm Saturday 16 August 2014:

The last but one firefighters’ strike this week ended at 2pm. During the two-hour period we had 13 fire engines available to deploy across the West Midlands, plus two acting as Brigade Response Vehicles (crewed by three) and two actual BRVs. Our non-striking contingency staff attended the following incidents:

11.56am Wolverhampton: person stuck in a lift (contingency crews mobilised once strike had started, as lift engineer couldn’t attend immediately)
12.05pm Kingstanding, Birmingham: smoke detector activated by cooking fumes
12.13pm Lea Hall, Birmingham: fence fire
12.16pm Hall Green, Birmingham: smoke detector, false alarm
12.23pm Willenhall, Coventry: rubbish on fire in garden
12.53pm Tipton: man stuck on roof after being taken ill
12.56pm Wolverhampton town centre: bin fire
12.57pm Walsall: assistance to RSPCA, removing padlocked chain from horse’s neck
1.12pm Island at J10 of M6 motorway: van fire
1.21pm Small Heath, Birmingham: garden fire
1.31pm Wolverhampton: small fire in cooker, out on arrival
1.46pm Edgbaston, Birmingham: report of fire in the open, false alarm
1.49pm Brierley Hill: bin fire

A one-hour strike is due to start at 10.59pm tonight.

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Update issued at 00:15hrs Saturday 16 August 2014:

During last night’s firefighters’ strike which ended at midnight our contingency crews attended six incidents:

10.58pm Chelmsley Wood: rubbish on fire
11.06pm Tipton: rubbish on fire
11.09pm Tipton: false alarm
11.14pm Smethwick: fence fire
11.19pm Coventry: bonfire spread to fence
11.42pm Oldbury: controlled burning.

We had 11 fire engines and two Brigade Response Vehiles available during the strike period. 

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Update issued at 2.10pm Friday 15 August 2014:

Our non-striking contingency crews attended four incidents during today's two-hour strike by firefighters which ended at 2pm:

12.18pm M6 motorway northbound, J10-11: non-injury collision

12.34pm Walsall: false alarm

12.44pm Hockley, Birmingham: assistance to ambulance service accessing patient in need of hospital treatment

1.44pm Shard End, Birmingham: domestic smoke detector, false alarm.

Resources available during the strike: 16 fire engines, plus one acting as a Brigade Response Vehicle (crewed with three) and three actual BRVs.

The next strike by firefighters is due to start at 22.59pm tonight (Fri) and last one hour.

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Update issued at 00:45hrs Friday 15 August 2014:

Our strike contingency crews attended three incidents in the hour to midnight when firefighters were on strike: 

11.08pm Yardley, Birmingham: false alarm at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital

11.30pm Soho, Birmingham: false alarm at sheltered accommodation

11.44pm West Bromwich: fire in a lock-up garage, believed arson.

Eleven fire engines, plus two acting as Brigade Response Vehicles (with a crew of three) and one actual BRV were available to deploy across the West Midlands during the strike.

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Update issued at 2.25pm Thursday 14 August 2014:

The latest strike by firefighters as part of their national pensions dispute ended at 2pm today. During the two hours we had 16 fire engines available to deploy throughout the West Midlands, plus four acting as Brigade Response Vehicles (with a crew of three) and two actual BRVs.

Non-striking operational staff attended the following incidents:

12.11pm Kingstanding, Birmingham: automatic fire alarm, false alarm
12.40pm Handsworth, Birmingham: small fire involving cooking food, out on our arrival
12.44pm Bartley Green, Birmingham: report of a road traffic collision, false alarm
1.09pm Oldbury: oil spillage on road following mechanical problem on articulated lorry
1.30pm Brierley Hill: assistance to RSPCA, horse tethered and entangled on a steep bank
1.36pm Newtown, Birmingham: controlled burning at a derelict factory
1.49pm Tile Hill, Coventry: house full of smoke from smouldering fire within, believed to have been started by an iron left switched on. Crews forced entry (ongoing at time of update)

The next strike by firefighters is due to start at 22.59pm tonight (Thurs) and last one hour.

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Update issued at 1.45am Thursday 14 August:

Non-striking West Midlands firefighters attended a serious fire in a block of low-rise flats in Tividale, Tipton which broke out just after 11.30pm on Wednesday 13 August.

The incident occurred during the latest national one-hour strike by firefighters, which ran for an hour on Wednesday night from 10.59pm.

We were first alerted by colleagues at West Midlands Police, and more than a dozen calls were received soon afterwards by staff in the shared Staffordshire and West Midlands fire control.

One caller reported than a man had jumped from a window, but that a woman was still inside.

The number of calls and severity of the incident meant that we deployed a total of five fire engines and one hydraulic platform, and just over 20 firefighters. All of those on the fire engines were non-striking staff, providing emergency response cover to the West Midlands as part of our industrial action contingency plans.

The fire spread to one neighbouring flat and to a roof void, leading to part of the roof collapsing.

A man believed to be in his 30s and a woman both jumped from windows of the third and top storey flat before we arrived. Both were treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to hospital by ambulance. He had suspected leg injuries and she was thought to be suffering from the effects of breathing in smoke and other injuries.

Area Commander Simon Shilton (Emergency Response) of WMFS said: “This was a serious fire in a low-rise block of flats, which had the potential to be a great deal worse.

“It happened half-way through the latest one-hour strike by firefighters. However, our contingency plans were in place which meant that we were able to send five fire crews and one of our hydraulic platforms to the scene. They quickly put in place assertive tactics to deal with the fire safely and effectively.

“At the end of the strike, when our night crews returned to duty across the brigade at midnight, a number attended the scene to support our contingency arrangements.

“The fire affected all of the flat in which it started. Our expert fire investigators will be looking into what caused it.”

The incident was the second of two to which our contingency crews responded during the strike. The other incident was a false alarm in Coventry.

Twelve fire engines were available to deploy throughout the West Midlands, plus one acting a Brigade Response Vehicle and two actual BRVs.

The next strike by firefighters is planned to start at 12noon today (Thursday) and last for two hours.

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Chief Fire Officer praises fire crews' decision not to strike mid-incident.

Message issued today to our staff by CFO Phil Loach:

Dear colleague,
 
You are no doubt aware of a decision taken last night by firefighters in the West Midlands to remain in operation at the scene of a serious fire, in spite of the start of industrial action.
 
I would like to place on record my thanks and appreciation to those involved, and to recognise the professionalism demonstrated.
 
When the industrial action started, six fire engines and some 30 firefighters were already committed at a severe fire in a shop with accommodation above in Acocks Green, Birmingham.
 
They had been called to the incident at 9.56pm, and crews took the decision to remain at the incident and not to join last night’s strike which started at 22.59pm. In the early stages of the incident it was unknown if all people in the building were accounted for, and a severe gas leak had ignited.
 
We must remind ourselves that this situation is a national pensions dispute with the Government, which continues to present local West Midlands firefighters with some difficult decisions.
 
In spite of this, last night’s actions clearly showed a willingness to put dispute-related frustrations to one side and to focus on the serious job in hand. It underlined our staff’s ongoing commitment to keeping the communities of the West Midlands safe.
 
The first firefighting appliance arrived at the incident in just over five minutes and crews adopted assertive, safe and effective fire-fighting tactics which prevented more extensive damage to the row of buildings involved. Fortunately, no-one was hurt. These circumstances, which occurred prior to the strike action, should serve to remind us of the importance of maintaining the resources that make up the West Midlands Fire Service response model. Despite having business continuity plans in place during the strike periods, any significant incidents would test our resilience and these arrangements are a long way from ‘business as usual’.
 
I am proud of those involved, who dealt with the incident in this way. It reflects the professionalism, integrity and excellence in service delivery that I encounter on a daily basis throughout West Midlands Fire Service.

Phil Loach
Chief Fire Officer

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Update issued at 2.05pm Wednesday 13 August 2014:

Our non-striking operational staff attended six incidents this lunchtime, during the two-hour strike by firefighters which ended at 2pm:

12.10pm Hockley, Birmingham: road traffic collision
12.25pm Coventry: small kitchen fire involving cooking food, out when we arrived
12.35pm Aston, Birmingham: report of fire in the open but false alarm
12.52pm Halesowen: reports of smoke in the area but false alarm
12.58pm New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton: fire alarms activating but false alarm
1.36pm: Halesowen: request to assist ambulance service with patient who had fallen

Resources we had available: 15 fire engines, plus one with a crew of three acting a Brigade Response Vehicle and two actual BRVs.

The next strike by firefighters, lasting an hour, is planned to start at 10.59pm tonight.

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Update issued at 01:30hrs Wednesday 13 August 2014:

The latest strike by firefighters took place during the hour up to midnight on Tuesday 12 August 2014, during which we had 12 fire engines, plus two acting as Brigade Response Vehicles (with a crew of three) and one actual BRV available to deploy.

When the industrial action started, six fire engines and some 30 firefighters were already at a severe fire in a shop with accommodation above on Warwick Road in Acocks Green, Birmingham.

We were called to the incident at 9.56pm. The crews which had originally responded took the decision to remain at the incident and not to join the strike which started at 22.59pm.

Simon Shilton, Area Commander (Emergency Response) with WMFS, welcomed the crews’ decision.

He said: “This was a severe fire which affected three shops with properties above. There was the potential for people to be inside but, fortunately, everyone was accounted for.

“The crews remained in operation at the scene and conducted themselves professionally, continuing to provide excellent service to the people of the West Midlands.”

At one stage a ruptured gas supply was alight. Warwick Road was closed.

During the strike we deployed resilience crews to two other incidents - petrol on the road in Walsall, and a false alarm in Erdington.

The next strike by firefighters in their dispute with the Government over pensions is due to take place from 12noon until 2pm later today.

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Update issued at 2.05pm Tuesday 12 August 2014:

Twelve fire engines, two more acting as a Brigade Response Vehicle (with a crew of three) and one actual BRV were available to help keep the West Midlands safe during this lunchtime's firefighters' strike. Our non-striking resilience crews attended the following incidents:

12.41pm Walsall: fire in the open

1.09pm Bushbury, Wolverhampton: fire suspected in loft space but false alarm

1.12pm Birchfield, Birmingham: false alarm (controlled burning)

1.44pm Friar Park, West Bromwich: fire involving cooking food, out on arrival

1.47pm Hay Mills, Birmingham: house fire 

Today’s second strike by firefighters is planned for an hour from 10.59pm.

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Update issued at 00:15hrs Tuesday 12 August 2014:

Fourteen of our fire engines were available for use during the one-hour firefighters' strike which ended at midnight. Non-striking operational staff attended four incidents:

11.12pm Brierley Hill: careline activated, false alarm

11.46pm Wolverhampton: automatic fire alarm, false alarm

11.48pm Coventry: garden fire

11.51pm Lye, Stourbridge: fire at a factory

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Update issued at 2.05pm Monday 11 August 2014:

We had 14 fire engines available throughout the West Midlands during the two-hour firefighters’ strike, which ended at 2pm. These were complemented by two Brigade Response Vehicles, and one fire engine acting as a BRV.

Our non-striking contingency crews attended four incidents:

12.08pm Wednesfield, Wolverhampton: small fire in cavity wall at a school

1.14pm Chelmsley Wood: smoke detector, false alarm

1.22pm West Heath Hospital, Birmingham: false alarm

1.35pm Wednesbury: garden fire

Today’s second strike by firefighters is planned for an hour from 10.59pm.

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Update issued at 8.35am Monday 11 August 2014:

During last night's one-hour strike by firefighters, which ended at 23.59pm, we had 15 fire engines and one acting as a Brigade Response Vehicle (crewed with three) available to deploy.

There were no incidents. 

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Update issued at 2.10pm Sunday 10 August 2014:

Our contingency plans meant that we had 11 fire engines available to deploy during this lunchtime’s strike by firefighters, which ended at 2pm. Two other engines were in use as temporary Brigade Response Vehicles (with a crew of three), plus three actual BRVs. Incidents attended:

12.07pm West Bromwich: road traffic collision
1.02pm Wolverhampton: road traffic collision
1.16pm Dudley: road traffic collision (car v house)
1.56pm Castle Bromwich: smoke detector sounding

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Update issued at 00:10hrs Sunday 10 August:

We had 13 fire engines and one Brigade Response Vehicle available to deploy during Saturday night's one-hour strike which ended at 11.59pm.

We attended three incidents: a garden fire in Coventry (false alarm); a road traffic collision in Hockley, Birmingham; a car fire in Tividale which was out on our arrival.

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Update issued at 2.05pm Saturday 9 August:

This lunchtime’s two-hour strike by firefighters ended at 2pm. We had 14 fire engines and two Brigade Response Vehicles (with a crew of three) available to deploy during the strike period. Non-striking operational staff attended two incidents:

12.19pm Tividale: false alarm (smoke detector)
12.32pm Walsall: bin fire

Please scroll down to see details of industrial action planned up to and including next Saturday night (16 August).

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West Midlands Fire Service is reassuring the public that it will be working hard to provide the maximum level of protection possible during eight consecutive days of strikes by firefighters, due to start on Saturday 9 August.

The industrial action is part of a national dispute with the Government over changes to firefighters’ pensions. It will take place between 12noon and 2pm, and then for one hour from 10.59pm, every day from Saturday 9 to Saturday 16 August inclusive.

Simon Shilton, Area Commander (Emergency Response) with WMFS, said: “We’re asking people to make safety an even higher priority than usual during these 16 strike periods.

“Some bad weather is forecast for the weekend, so we’d ask people to be especially careful if this coincides with the industrial action, and to plan ahead and travel accordingly.

“We’d ask people to keep an eye on safety at all times, and to do what they can to make sure that vulnerable family members, friends or neighbours are safe and aware that the strikes are taking place.

“We’re working hard to ensure that we can provide the best emergency response cover possible, using operational staff who won’t be on strike. Clearly, we hope that this national dispute can be resolved as quickly as possible. In the meantime, everyone can play a part in helping to minimise demand on the fewer resources we will have available.

“Most house fires are preventable, and the public can make a huge contribution to their own safety. Using basic common sense at home, on the roads and at work can make the difference between needing our help or not.”

During the strike, people in genuine emergency who need the fire service should call 999 as usual.

Tips to stay safe: 

• make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home
• check that everyone you live with knows your fire escape plan and escape routes
• dispose of cigarettes and other smoking materials very carefully - don’t smoke late at night and/or in bed
• be extra careful in the kitchen - don’t leave food cooking unattended
• take care on the roads - stick to speed limits, don’t use your mobile phone while driving, don’t drive under the influence of drink or drugs. (continues)

A wide range of safety advice is available in the ‘Stay safe’ section of the brigade’s website: www.wmfs.net/content/stay-safe. Regular tips are also issued on Twitter via @WestMidsFire

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Issued by Neil Spencer, Senior Press Officer, West Midlands Fire Service, tel 0121 380 6101. On Twitter we’re @WestMidsFire

Press Release Date: 
Friday, August 8, 2014 - 13:30