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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 09:16 GMT
Three die during fire strike
RAF crew fighting a fire in Cambridge
Green Goddess crews have answered hundreds of calls
Three elderly people have died in house fires as the UK's first national firefighters' strike in 25 years continues.

Thousands of armed forces personnel spent the night attending emergency call-outs, with some areas hampered by streams of hoax calls and minor arson attacks.

The 48-hour industrial action began when firefighters, demanding a 40% pay rise, walked out at 1800 GMT on Wednesday.

As the strike enters its second day, local authority employers will be meeting to discuss how to break the deadlock.

The Fire Brigades Union has already rejected as "derisory" an offer of 11% over two years combined with modernisation, but insists it wants a settlement.

About 18,500 troops in Green Goddess vehicles responded mostly to minor emergencies, alongside retained firefighters - part-timers who are not striking.

The first of three fatalities came when a 76-year-old woman was rescued from a fire at her house in Newtown, Powys, but died later in hospital.

RAF personnel manning a Green Goddess were joined at the scene by local firefighters, who left their picket line after hearing a woman was trapped.

Give them what they are worth Messrs Blair and Brown!

Ed, UK
In Lancashire, military personnel arrived at a house in Brierfield, near Burnley six minutes after the alarm was raised.

The troops, in a Green Goddess with breathing apparatus, rescued a man, who has not been named, but he later died in hospital.

The third fatality came in a fire that broke out in a flat in the West Midlands.

It is not known how long a Green Goddess and two breathing apparatus rescue team vehicles took to reach the flat in Halesowen, where an elderly man was evacuated from his bedroom and taken to hospital but later died.

Firefighters in Oxfordshire crossed their picket line to help rescue a man trapped after being overcome by fumes in a kitchen fire.

Green goddess in Derby
Green Goddesses have answered many 999 calls
At Teesside Airport, one of its own fire engines was first on the scene of a road accident outside in which one person died.

Paramedics and an ambulance crew treated four people who were injured, two seriously.

Emergency services have been shocked by the number of hoax calls made during the first night of the strike.

There were 239 malicious calls in the Scotland's Strathclyde area alone, with only 20 genuine call-outs.

Strathclyde Police condemned the hoaxers and said those responsible were putting lives at risk.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland police were attacked with stones as they accompanied the army to a minor incident in the Shantallow area of the Derry.

In London, some tube stations closed and a "handful" of drivers refused to drive trains, apparently because of safety fears.

Twenty four London Underground stations remained closed on Thursday, causing travel problems for commuters.


Bad weather overnight has caused additional problems as the Green Goddesses are not equipped to deal with the flooding that has hit southern regions.

In Cornwall 12 people were rescued from flood water.

Devon and Cornwall police said some calls from drivers stuck in flood water which did not merit sending out the Green Goddesses.

It is hoped talks can resume between employers and the union after the end of this first 48-hour strike.

Strike dates
13-15 November Starts and ends at 1800 GMT
22-30 November Starts/ ends 0900
4-12 December Starts/ ends 0900
16-24 December Starts/ ends 0900

The government has come under fire for the use of Green Goddesses while state-of-the-art fire appliances were locked behind picket lines.

Defence secretary Geoff Hoon defended their use but said the government was considering training troops how to use modern engines.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that before the strike there was the problem of making the vehicles available while in use by the fire service.

Now that the strike had started, he said, the troops needed to use equipment with which they were familiar in order to provide adequate protection.

Mr Hoon added that the threat of antagonising the FBU was another factor in not turning over modern fire engines to the troops.

Fire dispute at a glance
PayBain Review Working Practices
Fire Brigades UnionFirefighters are calling for a 40% rise FBU leader: "He has effectively wrecked the pay talks."FBU leader: "Modernising the service should not be an excuse to undermine the union."
EmployersThe employers have offered them an interim 4% riseThey have warmly welcomed the Bain report endorsing its "vision" of the future"Any increase above 4% would have to be linked to modernisation and supported financially by the government."
Bain Review Recommends a 4% rise in 2002 followed by 7% in 2003"I think in the longer term it provides the only basis on which any kind of rational and equitable deal can be done."Calls for reform and end to overtime ban and for more flexible working practices in return for a raise
Fire Service Minister"We made it clear that if they [the employers] went beyond 4% they would have to fund that." "I believe most fair-minded people would regard it as a good basis for the future terms of the fire service."
"Investment in public services must go hand in hand with improvement and modernisation."
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"The operation has been hampered by a disturbing number of hoax calls"
Geoff Hoon MP, Defence Secretary
"We can only provide basic emergency cover"
Richard Aitken & Brent Cross, Sheffield Firefighters
"This is the first time we've not been paid for being cold and wet"

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