FIRE chiefs said call numbers had been low in the first part of the 24 hour firefighters' strike, which ends at 9 am tomorrow (Fri) morning, with just 17 calls needing attendance before the end of the afternoon - including a car fire in Baildon.

Fire Brigades Union members nationally are striking over an unresolved dispute on pensions, which could seen contributions from firefighters rise along with an increase in retirement age.

The current strike is the 13th stoppage since the dispute began last year and is the first time fire cover has been left in the hands of contingency fire crews for a full 24 hour hours.

Between the start of the strike at 9 am and 5 pm the service took 38 calls, but many of those were either false alarms or minor incidents where advice was given rather than fire crews being sent out.

Seventeen calls needed a response, with a car fire at Baildon shortly before lunchtime being the most serious incident in the Bradford area.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton said: “We sincerely appreciate the efforts that people have gone to in order to safeguard themselves and their families during this period.

“However, we are mindful that it has been a very sunny day and spirits may be high as the first World Cup game kicks off this evening.

“If you are planning a barbecue to celebrate, please remember that cooking and alcohol do not mix.

“Never use flammable fuels to ignite a barbecue – stick to approved fire lighters instead,” he said.

The service is relying on a contingency fire service while professional firefighters are on strike, meaning there is a reduced number of fire engines available and the crews may be less skilled than those who would regularly attend calls.

A squad of replacement firefighters were recruited when the dispute began to escalate and they have been trained but lack the breadth of training and experience of West Yorkshire's regular crews.

They are working alongside West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service staff who are not involved in the dispute, staffing a fleet of 27 fire engines in the county.

The dispute is being negotiated nationally, but the Fire Brigades Union in Bradford have said their members have become increasingly determined to protect their position as negotiations with the Government have failed to find a solution.

So far the West Yorkshire service has had to spend more than £500,000 to provide contingency cover and the current strike, along with another planned for later in June, will push the total higher.

Members of the public are being asked to take special care in all aspects of their lives while the strikes are on, including testing smoke alarms to make sure they work, avoiding smoking in bed and to drive carefully and use seatbelts.