Firefighters warmed by public response

SECOND after second on Ipswich's Princes Street picket line another car horn honks in support of the fire fighters.They're outside, clutching a hot cup of coffee with their braziers burning and a collection bucket beside strike notices.

By Amanda Cresswell

SECOND after second on Ipswich's Princes Street picket line another car horn honks in support of the fire fighters.

They're outside, clutching a hot cup of coffee with their braziers burning and a collection bucket beside strike notices.

It's just a few weeks before Christmas. They've lost their pay during the striking days, but morale is still high and the fire fighters are as determination as ever to get a fair deal.


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Sitting under a make shift tent, by a poster with the words "would you do this for £6 an hour?" FBU brigade official Richard Wood, is touched by the support he has received.

"We have been up town this morning leafleting giving out fire safety advice," he explains. "We had a collection bucket with us and in two hours we have received £200.

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"People have been coming up with cheques, a pensioner gave us a week of her money and people have been giving us food donations. The support has been quite humbling.

"Yesterday I was up Colchester Road fire station. I feel sympathy for the residents there as we must have had 500 – 600 cars go by and out of this only three give us the thumbs down, or other gestures."

Mr Wood said the strike has been one of the most successful fire safety campaigns, with the public largely heading advice.

He said a professional fire fighting job could not be compared to the role of the stand-in military teams.

Up to 75 percent of the fire fighters job is not taken up by battling blazes, but carrying out community and prevention work.

He said calls had also been carefully filtered over the strike period.

Although the fire strike started with demands for a 40 percent pay hike, Mr Wood said the dispute is now more about potential cuts to the service.

"The fire service is already cut to the bone already," said Mr Wood. "There's no room for cuts.

"We are something like the fourth richest country in the world and we are cutting back on services. The public should realise the cost to the public for the fire service is 60 – 70 p a week, which is the cheapest form of insurance."

"The Fire Cover Review report this year said a £1.5 billion investment would save at least 300 lives a year and injury and heartbreak that goes with it," said Mr Wood.

"It would cost 415 million to fund the original pay claim, which would save lives but going into Iraq would kill people at the cost of billions."

He emphasised there is no animosity towards the troops manning the Green Goddesses. "I'm an ex-forces myself. Many of us are and we have every sympathy with them.

"They have a job to do. We actually wave to them as they go past in the green goddesses. We wish them all the best."

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