Cleveland fire chief wants public to offer strike cover
Volunteer members of the public should fight fires if fire crews go on strike, Cleveland's fire chief has said.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is holding a national ballot in a dispute over pensions.
If agreed, industrial action could take place as early as September and volunteers are being asked to step in and be trained up to provide cover.
In the event of a strike, they would be asked to drive fire engines, extinguish fires and rescue road crash victims.
Payment would be made during the training period and when they were on duty.
Last week Derbyshire Fire and Rescue announced plans to use volunteers with two weeks' training to cover in the event of a strike.
At the time, the FBU said the move would put lives at risk and it said people with limited training would not be capable of covering properly for experienced fire crews.
During previous strikes by firefighters, cover has been provided by members of the armed forces using "green goddess" fire engines.
Ian Hayton, chief officer at the Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: "Whilst this is a national dispute between the FBU and central government, I still have a legal obligation to ensure I can continue to provide an emergency response throughout any period of disruption.
"Unlike during previous industrial action, there is no longer any military support available and there are no longer 'green goddesses' to be called upon.
"We need heavy goods drivers that we can train to drive fire appliances.
"The other thing we are looking for is people who can undertake, for a temporary period, a firefighter's job.
"There aren't any academic qualifications needed as such, it is mainly around physical fitness."
He added: "This is our plan B. It's purely a precautionary measure with successful recruits only being called upon should strike action occur."
Matt Wrack, from the FBU, said: "The FBU is currently balloting our members on attacks on our pensions, but we are anxious to avoid an industrial dispute if at all possible, and we urge the government to come back to the negotiating table."