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Firefighters on strike until 9am

Firefighters have been on the picket lines across the North East. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Firefighters across the region will remain out on strike for another two and a half hours this morning.

They walked out 9am yesterday and will return to work today at 9am.

This is the 48th round of industrial action in a continuing dispute with the government over pension reforms.

Firefighters walk out for 48th time in pensions row

Firefighters in the North East are on strike again today in the latest round of industrial action in a long-running row with the government over pensions.

It's the 48th time members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out since the dispute flared last year.

The 24-hour strike starts at 9am.

The union said that after three years of discussions, firefighters still faced a "stark" choice of being sacked or having their pension severely reduced.

Firefighters in Sunderland during a previous strike. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"Firefighters in England are reluctantly calling further strike action as a direct result of the Westminster government's failure to listen and negotiate over pensions.

"Firefighters are asking the Westminster government to immediately open genuine negotiations to resolve this dispute. They should also hold a House of Commons debate to fully scrutinise the legislation and there should be a parliamentary vote on the regulations.

"We are not going to give up or go away. Firefighters will fight for however long it takes to secure a fair pensions deal. This dispute will not end as long as the regulations remain unchanged."

– Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary

"This strike action is completely unnecessary and we are disappointed by the FBU's decision, which does nothing but damage the good reputation of the fire and rescue service.

"The Government has worked hard to give firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.

"The scheme that is currently before Parliament provides greater ill-health and death benefits than the Fire Brigades Union's preferred approach and I believe that the approach we are using will be fairer on all, supporting those wishing to work longer - something absolutely essential if the firefighters' pension scheme is to remain sustainable."

– Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt

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Potential reprieve for region's fire services

Last month we told you that five million pounds worth of cuts were approved that would see the closure of Sunderland Central, Wallsend and Gosforth fire stations.

Today, though, the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority says it now may be able to avoid the closures - at least in the short term.

But, the Fire Brigades Union have not greeted the news with enthusiasm.

They say that all the Fire Authority has done is create confusion and uncertainty.

Julie Harrison reports.

Fire dog tested against technology

Scrappy the fire dog is being tested against technology. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The North East's only hydro-carbon detection dog has been put through his paces against the latest technology.

Scrappy has been helping gather evidence at suspicion fires for five months by sniffing out flammable liquids.

He wears a harness and special boots, donated by a North East company, to protect his paws.

Teesside University are comparing the cocker spaniel's skills to devices used by the fire service to detect hydro-carbons like petrol which may have been used to start fires.

So far, they have found that the machine can't trace chemicals after 8-10 days whereas Scrappy has no trouble at all finding the scent.

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Chinese Lantern safety tips

Cleveland Fire Brigade has issued Chinese Lantern safety advice ahead of Chinese New Year celebrations. Since 2009 there have been 11 Chinese lantern incidents throughout Cleveland.

“With Chinese New Year almost upon us I appeal to local people to think about the potential consequences of igniting a sky lantern.

“The huge fire at Smethwick in the West Midlands last year is a reminder to us all of the devastation they can cause. As a Brigade we will continue to lobby the Government to introduce legislation to ban sky lanterns.

“Once they are lit and travel into the sky, no-one has any control over where and when they will land. They pose a serious risk to property, wildlife, the environment and people’s lives and the sooner they are banned, the better.”

– PHIL LANCASTER Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Director of Community Protection

SAFETY TIPS FROM CLEVELAND FIRE BRIGADE

-Lanterns must be used by responsible adults only

-Water should always be on hand in case the lanterns catch fire

-The launch area needs to be kept clear of combustible materialsDamaged lanterns must not be used

-Ensure sufficient clearance to avoid obstacles such as trees, powerlines or buildings

-Do not launch near roads, especially major roads or motorways

-Do not launch within five miles of an airport

-Do not launch in wind speeds in excess of five miles per hour (mph)Do not smoke whilst handling lanterns

Fire strike passes without major incident

The latest strike action by fire service crews, in a dispute about pensions, has passed largely without incident.

It began at 7pm on Christmas Eve and ended at midnight.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service has reported attending three incidents during this five hour period.

These were a small fire in Darlington, a burst water pipe at a family home, and a false alarm.

Once again our resilience plans have worked well and I would like to thank people in County Durham and Darlington for taking extra care especially when there are extra pressures at Christmas time. During this most recent period of industrial action, as during the six previous strikes since September, we were able to provide people in County Durham and Darlington Borough with a professional response.We hope that our efforts to warn and inform people to take extra care in the build-up to this strike will carry through to the next period of industrial action, on New Year's Eve."

– Stuart Errington, deputy chief fire officer, County Durham and Darlington Fire & Rescue

Warning Ahead Of Fire Brigade Union Strike

County Durham & Darlington Fire Service is urging people to take extra care ahead of a Fire Brigade Union strike this evening. Resources will be reduced for five hours between 7pm to midnight on Christmas Eve.

It's part of the latest round of national strikes by the union in an ongoing dispute with the government about changes to pensions. The next strike is on New Year's Eve.

Householders are advised to check their smoke alarms, drivers are urged to stay safe by slowing down and leaving ample space behind the vehicle in front and those people spending time in the kitchen are reminded not to leave pans unattended and not to cook after drinking alcohol which can be extremely dangerous.

– Stuart Errington Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service
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