6pm on Wednesday 13 November 2002 saw the first national firefighter strike since 1977. Army, Navy and RAF personnel manned their own emergency firefighting vehicles, including over 800 Green Goddesses, while picketing firefighters and control room operators watched on. This began a series of walk-outs lasting between 1 and 8 days that stretched into 2003.
The Fire Brigade Union flag – a familiar sight at picket lines up and down the country.
Despondent fire-fighters huddle around the brazier during the 24-hour strike on 21 January 2003.
A large crowd of fire service employees show their appreciation at passing motorists sounding their horns in support of the strike.
The flag of North Yorkshire Fire Brigade, showing York Minster on fire, a rescue boat and fire fighters using water hoses.
A Bedford RLHZ Self-Propelled Pump, more commonly known as a Green Goddess. This engine is on standby a few hours before the start of the strike in Chester-le-Street, County Durham. It was built on the Bedford S chassis between 1953-6 and can attain 50 mph with its four-wheel drive system.
An Assistant Divisional Officer discusses matters with two other firefighters five minutes into the second strike. The symbolic brazier ironically burns in the foreground while a pump remains permanently parked in the background.
A general view of the picket line. This same scene is duplicated up and down the country. The departing night- and arriving day- crews are joined by more firefighters for a show of presence at the start of the strike. A Station Officer acknowledges passing motorists sounding their horns in the foreground.
At another station, handwritten signs rally passing motorist’s and pedestrian’s support as firefighters sit glumly at the picket.
A Fire Brigade Union official picket line during the first 48-hour strike. Firefighters chat about their 40% pay rise demands as the FBU flags flutter and the brazier burns in the foreground.
The very first call out of RAF firefighting personnel in York. At exactly 7:30pm a North Yorkshire Police Peugeot emerges from Imphal Barracks, Fulford, escorting a RAF LDV open-backed truck.
The RAF vehicle is a modern van that is much sprightlier than a Green Goddess. It rushes out of the barracks with blue lights flashing.
Both emergency vehicles make haste into the foggy night. The police car is used to aid the firefighters vehicle through traffic as well as provide radio contact. The RAF vehicle does not have a siren fitted.
A Green Goddess fire appliance, SYH 135, on standby during the strikes. It has the three coloured circles of the Royal Air Force on the doors. Notice the two small circles above the windscreen. These used to show amber lights when responding to emergencies, a forerunner of the modern blue lights.
The rear view. The wheeled ladders and water outlets are visible. It carries all of the basic firefighting equipment, including miles of hoses, pumps, foam, water, chimney rods and some cutting equipment.
In stark contrast to the Green Goddess is this 2002 Ford Transit RAF rescue vehicle. Known as a BART (breathing apparatus rescue team), this double-cab open-back van carries BA units and other rescue equipment that the Green Goddess doesn’t.
The side view of this long wheelbase version Transit.
An emergency call! Camouflage uniform-clad RAF personnel jump into the Bedford RLHZ Green Goddess. Two officers run to the main road and stop the traffic. Here it is emerging from the barracks where it is stationed.
A procession of four emergency vehicles head into the murky Sunday afternoon with blue lights flashing. A Peugeot Explorer police van leads the Green Goddess. Following is a Peugeot 306 police car escorting the BART.
Here are two Royal Navy BARTs, photographed at Chelsea Barracks in central London. Notice the range of colour schemes and the blue lights with in-built siren. The blue LDV has a military registration whereas the white Ford Transit has a civilial plate. Just behind the vans is a police Landrover Discovery used to escort them.
This Volvo FL6.14 is a appliance of London’s Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh. Built in 1990, it has been stripped of it’s livery and assigned a temporary call sign for use in the 2002 strikes. It is manned by the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
The next three photographs were taken at the scene of a major shop fire in Lewisham, South London. This first photo shows a Green Goddess parked up next to the rear of the property. A military officer is cooling the door near the seat of the fire.
A few steps backwards is this scene. A Metropolitan Police Vauxhall Omega estate has escorted a Toyota Hi-Lux to the fire scene. The Green Goddess can again be seen in the background as well as the rear of another Omega. The area is taped off to allow the ‘firefighters’ to work unhindered.
A police officer looks on as military personnel fight the fire. On the main street there are an abnormally large number of emergency vehicles. For every military appliance there is a police vehicle to escort it. From left to right is: A Green Goddess, a Ford Explorer Pick-up, another Green Goddess, a Ford Transit Metropolitan Police van, a Met Ford Fiesta then a Mercedes Sprinter police van.