Firefighters will take part in a national strike today (Wednesday) in a dispute over pensions.

The walkout, between noon and 4pm, was announced by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) earlier this month.

Cambridgeshire FBU branch secretary Cameron Matthews said it was disappointing that the Government had refused to continue with negotiations to reach a settlement.

"Members have been forced into this position by Fire Minister Brandon Lewis," he said. "The Government has been given maximum time for talks, which the FBU is committed to. Unfortunately it has refused to take part.

"It's the last thing we wanted to happen, to take industrial action."

Following a review, the Government has proposed that the pension age for firefighters is increased from 55 to 60.

Mr Matthews said the plans, including the introduction of strict fitness criteria which many would struggle to meet, were unworkable.

"The Government's own review said 66 per cent of firefighters aged over 55 would not meet the required fitness standards. If they did fail then they would, in effect, be sacked by increasing this age. They are stipulating an age which is unrealistic for firefighters.

"It's a highly physically demanding job. We're hoping the majority of people would not like to see an ageing workforce coming to save them and their families in the event of a fire."

Mr Matthews said he hoped today's industrial action, which was due to see pickets outside stations for the first time in more than a decade, would bring the Government back to the negotiating table.

No further strikes had been planned, he added.

Meanwhile, people were urged to take precautions to reduce their chances of needing to call on the fire service.

Chris Strickland from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said 999 calls would be responded to if a person's life was at risk. He added: "These plans will not match the service's normal day-to-day cover, but will be enough to ensure that life-threatening incidents ... receive a 999 response."