A fire chief dealing with a serious bus fire during a firefighters' strike was using lifesaving equipment incorrectly, according to union officials.

Firefighter union chiefs say they have “grave concerns” about the level of training given to stand-by staff who will be protecting the public when full-time firefighters are on strike.

They say chief fire officer Des Prichard made seven mistakes with firefighting kit while tackling a fire which engulfed a Sussex Bus on the A23 near Pyecombe during last month's four hour strike.


Contingency plan worked OK today @EastSussexFRS hope DCLG & FBU can resolve last call received 15.59 to bus fire A23 pic.twitter.com/1LTZVo6HPE

— Des Prichard (@Des_Prichard) September 25, 2013

The fire service denied the claims and said that contingency crews were well-trained and not being put at risk.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union went on strike over a pensions' dispute with the Government for four hours on September 25 and have announced a further five hour strike starting on 6.30pm on Saturday.

Union leaders said that contingency crews include some officers who have not been serving on the frontline for years and who have received just one day of training on breathing equipment.

Firefighters are obliged to have three days of this training every two years.

Union officials claim a picture tweeted by fire chief Des Prichard, who was paid a salary of £151,858 in 2012/13, at the scene of a bus fire shows him wearing his helmet incorrectly, an air valve upside down and with the wrong gloves on among seven equipment errors.

They claim the lack of training could be putting contingency staff and the public in danger and have raised their concerns with the Health and Safety Executive.

East Sussex FBU secretary Mark Brown said: “We are extremely concerned that resilience crews have not been suitably trained or assessed in the wearing of breathing apparatus. This needs rectifying immediately.”

An East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: “We strongly refute any claims we are putting contingency crews at risk during ongoing strikes by members of the Fire Brigades Union.

“We invest £2 million every year in training and our contingency crews are made of experienced operational staff including retained firefighters and officers who are not members of the FBU.

“All operational staff have to regularly update their training and qualifications and we have also carried out additional refresher training ahead of the industrial action by the FBU to be assured that our contingency crews are competent and well prepared.”