WEST Midlands Fire Service bosses are urging people to stay safe over the Bank Holiday weekend during planned strike action.

The first of three strikes started at noon today (Friday) and continues until 5pm – with two further walk-outs planned for Saturday May 3, from 2pm to 2am the following morning, and Sunday May 4 - from 10am to 3pm.

The walk-outs are the latest to be called by the Fire Brigades Union as part of a national row over pensions.

Paul Burnham, area commander (response and resource management) with WMFS, said: “Public safety is central to our contingency plans, and 999 calls will still be answered as normal.

“We will be providing the best emergency response we can, using operational staff who aren’t striking. However, with fewer fire engines available, we’re urging people to take extra care.

“We’ll be prioritising incidents involving a threat to life, followed by those involving property and then lower-risk call-outs. It could take us longer than usual to get to attend incidents, depending on demand. That’s why we’re appealing to people to stay safe and to only call us on 999 in genuine emergencies.”

Area commander Burnham also appealed to entertainment venues, restaurants and food outlets, and licensed premises to make staff and customer safety a top priority on Saturday night and he advised businesses which are usually closed at the weekend to double-check their fire precautions in advance.

For tips on how to reduce the risk of fire in the home visit www.wmfs.net