Firefighters across the West Midlands and Staffordshire walked out on strike this afternoon in a row over changes to their pensions which they claim will force them to work until the age of 60.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union left their stations and set up picket lines, leaving fire services to put into place contingency plans.
It was part of a national strike between midday and 4pm today. At Bilston Fire Station on the Black Country Route, 10 firefighters formed a picket line this afternoon.
Firefighter Scott Griffiths said: “It is massively important to all firefighters. We need to show a stand because the implications of these new proposals being brought in do not make sense.”
Follow live updates from our team of reporters at fire stations across the region:
Updates come from reporter Kirsten Rawlins in Stafford, Lisa O'Brien tweeting from Walsall, Adam Thompson in Bilston, Dan Wainwright at Merridale Street, Adam Grinsell at West Bromwich and Alex Ross with reports from Dudley.
Fire crews at Wolverhampton’s main fire station in Merridale Street, Graiseley, left at midday but did not set up a picket line.
None of them wanted to comment, but a retired firefighter came along on his motorbike to show support. Michael Lay, aged 58, of Uplands Drive in Finchfield, retired six years ago and said the changes to pensions would mean someone like him would have to carry on rescuing people using ladders.
He said: “People my age turn up to pensioners’ events and they’re hobbling. Many of us have problems with our joints because of the type of work firefighters do. They can’t carry on until they are 60.”
Meanwhile, at Dudley fire station firefighters were called out just two minutes before the strike started. The incident at a house in Sedgley Road West turned out to be a false alarm.
Firefighter Steven Hunter explains the reasons behind the strikes with his nine-month-old son Alfie at Dudley Fire Station.
Contingency plans in the West Midlands included stopping all non-emergency response work such as school visits and fire alarm checks. In Staffordshire chief fire officer Peter Dartford and his deputy Chris Ennis were expected to be in the control room monitoring calls. Senior officers were also prepared to put out on fire engines.
Just hours before the strike started an elderly couple died in a house fire in Lichfield Road, Stone.
Today’s walk-out comes as it was announced that thousands of crown post office workers will stage their 12th day of industrial action next Monday. That is the day before teachers stage a national strike.
In a poll on the website, 86 per cent of readers supported the strike action.