LANCASHIRE firefighters will join a wave of 16 short strikes over the next eight days as part of a national dispute with the government.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union walked out for two hours at noon today and again for an hour at 11pm.

Strikes will be held at the same times over the following seven days, the last on Saturday August 16.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service chief officer Chris Kenny promised there were contingency plans in place and enough firefighters prepared to work to protect the public in case of blazes.

He said:“This is a national dispute between the FBU and Government and is not a dispute between LFRS and our firefighters.

“We do have a significant number of staff who have given a commitment to maintain emergency cover and as a result the public can be reassured we plan to keep fire engines in Lancashire operational during the dispute period.

“We would urge the public to be vigilant and aware that for minor fires, there may be a longer wait for a fire engine.

“I ask the public to take extra care and access the website we have set up to offer advice at ’’.

“The focus will be on providing the best service possible with the resources available. In the longer term the challenge will be bringing our workforce together after the dispute to re-establish the most professional service possible.

“Even at this late stage I sincerely hope that Government and FBU will soon arrive at a negotiated settlement and we have written to the Government to urge progress.”

Lancashire FBU secretary Steve Harman said: “This is a national dispute with the government, not with LFRS, about changes to our pensions.

“Firefighters will have to work longer and receive lower pensions. Asking us to work till 60 is not safe for firefighters or the public there are protecting.”