Firefighters in the West Midlands and Staffordshire have voted to strike in a row over pensions.
A national ballot by the Fire Brigades Union saw staff vote four to one in favour of the walkout.
Union bosses are now urging the government to get back around the table and scrap plans to force firefighters to work until at least 60 before they can claim their pensions.
Members backed industrial action by 18,277 votes to 5,166, a majority of 78 per cent.
The union said planned changes to pensions were ‘unaffordable and unworkable’, would impose an increase in members’ contributions and would put firefighters at greater risk of dismissal without access to a proper pension if they cannot maintain fitness standards as they approach the retirement age of 60.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Expecting large numbers of 60-year-olds to fight fires and rescue families is dangerous to the public and to firefighters.
“The Government is simply ignoring the evidence about the physical demands of firefighting and has been unable to answer our concerns during two years of negotiations.”
In Staffordshire, senior officers including chief fire officer Peter Dartford have been trained so they can operate ladders and deal with emergencies in the event of a walkout by firefighters.
West Midlands Fire Service has also been drawing up contingencies. If strike action goes ahead around 1,200 firefighters in the West Midlands would be expected to strike, along with up to 600 in Staffordshire.
Action will have to be taken in 28 days.
Staffordshire deputy chief fire officer Chris Enness has stressed that emergency cover would be provided but ‘it will not be business as usual’.
A date for the strike has not yet been set.
Brian Moss, West Midlands regional chairman for the FBU, said: “The government needs to get back around the table with us.
“What this shows is that our members overwhelmingly support industrial action.”
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said he was ‘very disappointed’ with the ballot, adding that most firefighters will see no change in their pension age.