YESTERDAY saw firefighters down hoses and strike over a dispute with the Government regarding pensions.

It was the first of three strikes over the weekend, with Fire Brigades Union members all over the county not going into work.

The Rewley Road station in Oxford saw all but one of its union members strike.

Firefighter and union branch chairman for Rewley Road station Mark Summers said: “It’s making a stand as part of the union. As far as I’m concerned, this is a last resort. Something has to be done.”

The 41-year-old from Wantage said: “We already pay in £4,000 out of a £28,000 salary for our pensions, and that’s been rocketing up in the past few years.

“Decent retirement is part of being a fireman, because we get paid less than people think we should.

“It’s ludicrous to expect guys in their late 50s to be as fit as 20-year-olds.”

He added: “Everybody from around the county has been giving the strike good support.

“We just want to keep the public on our side.

“If there is a life-threatening incident we will respond to the call – this is a vocation, not just a job.

“We are putting the public at very little risk.”

County council deputy leader Rodney Rose said: “There is little we can do in Oxfordshire to help resolve this dispute, as it is between the National Fire Brigades’ Union and central Government. We have robust contingency plans in place that have worked successfully to cover previous strikes and we will continue to use these arrangements to cover the latest scheduled periods of industrial action.”

Strikes are due to take place from 2pm to 2am today and from 10am to 3pm tomorrow.

A mixture of non-striking full-time personnel and on-call staff will provide cover locally, and officials have said no 999 call will go unanswered.