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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 21:45 GMT
Protest at Buncefield reception
Fire union's Buncefield protest
The Fire Brigades Union is protesting over cuts in Herts
Firefighters who brought the fire at Buncefield oil depot under control have staged a protest outside a Downing Street reception they were to attend.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is fighting plans to cut 20 part-time and 10 full-time posts, with 12 firefighters redeployed.

Herts FBU vice chair Tony Smith said firefighters could not celebrate at a reception when they faced job cuts.

But chief fire officer Roy Wilsher said most firefighters would attend.

"This event is an opportunity for those firefighters who were on the front line fighting the Buncefield fire to be thanked for their magnificent efforts," he said.

We don't want public money spent on drinks and canapés when our communities are seeing their fire service cut to save money
Tony Smith
Mr Smith said: "We have no criticism of our colleagues who feel pressured to attend this reception, but we take exception to national and local politicians basking in the success of our hard work one minute and sacking us the next.

"Firefighters at Buncefield knew stations were ear-marked for closure and that jobs were under threat, but we did our duty. We are not prepared to quietly stand in line to be told `well done' only to be stabbed in the back days later.

"There is nothing to celebrate in Downing Street when the shadow of significant cuts hangs over our fire service. We don't want public money spent on drinks and canapés when our communities are seeing their fire service cut to save money.

Involved 600 firefighters

"The public in Hertfordshire are totally opposed to these cuts which will impact across the whole of the county."

The Buncefield fire, sparked by massive explosions at the site in Hemel Hempstead, took days to be brought under control.

The blaze - the largest in peacetime Europe - was tackled by 600 firefighters who used more than 15 million litres of water and 250,000 litres of foam concentrate.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said: "The efforts of all those involved - the fire and rescue service, police, health professionals and volunteers - in responding to the incident was magnificent.

"It is only right that this reception is taking place and that the bravery, commitment and professionalism of our firefighters is being acknowledged."


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