Fire strikes prompt bank holiday safety warning

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Media captionFirefighters taking part in strike action in Cardiff are applauded

Fire chiefs across Wales are urging people to take care over the bank holiday weekend as firefighters stage more strikes in a row over pensions.

A five-hour walk out started at 12:00 BST on Friday with further stoppages on Saturday and Sunday.

The UK government plans to raise firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase pension contributions.

Senior fire officers say strike contingency plans are in place but warn that resources will be stretched.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has held a series of short strikes on the issue since September, claiming firefighters should be allowed to retire earlier than other workers from such a physically demanding job.

The latest industrial action, which is also taking place across England, involves:

  • A strike on Friday between 12:00 and 17:00 BST
  • A strike on Saturday between 14:00 and 02:00 BST
  • A strike on Sunday between 10:00 and 15:00 BST
  • A ban on voluntary overtime from 15:00 BST on Sunday until 12:00 BST on Friday 9 May

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "Several members of government were only too keen to praise firefighters during the winter floods, but their words amount to nothing when they simultaneously ignore issues that threaten the future of firefighters and their families."

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Media captionMembers of the Fire Brigades' Union will walk out for five hours from midday on Friday

Fire chiefs in Wales said that once again contingency plans were in place for strike action but resources were likely to be stretched.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue said non-FBU staff would be on duty, but Assistant Chief Fire Officer Derek Masson urged residents and businesses to take extra care.

"Unfortunately, bank holidays do see an increase in the number of callouts we attend, with more people on the road, meeting up with friends and family and heightened drinking and cooking activities," he said.

North Wales Chief Fire Officer Simon Smith said: "The Fire Brigades Union has chosen to strike at a time when the risk to people's safety is inherently more significant.

"The call for people to be extra vigilant and to think more carefully about the situations they may be putting themselves into is therefore a very serious one."

In South Wales, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton said the risk of grass fires was a particular concern.

Image caption Crews tackled hundreds of grass fires across Wales in April and fire chiefs fear more this weekend

"With the weather forecast currently looking good we know that over 90% of grass fires within South Wales are started deliberately, meaning they are totally avoidable," he said.

"These fires can spread quickly during dry weather; putting lives and property at serious risk.

"So we urge everyone to be sensible and remember setting fires deliberately damages our countryside, hurts our communities and is a crime which can carry a heavy sentence."

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