But next week the Green Goddess fire engines, despite their inadequacies, will be careering around Essex at 40mph in place of the county's striking firefighters.
Yesterday, soldiers of the Royal Scots and Royal Logistical Corps were training on the 50-year-old fire engines in preparation for their emergency duties.
A four-hour stoppage starting at 10am on Monday is expected to be followed by a 24-hour walk-out next Friday, when Essex Fire Brigades Union members will demonstrate their anger over pounds 1m worth of cuts in a march through Colchester.
Some of the soldiers training on the Green Goddesses yesterday at Wattisham military airfield in Suffolk have never been near a fire appliance before. Some will be attending emergency calls with just one day's training.
Andy Gilchrist, an official of the firefighters' union, said that the soldiers' equipment was "totally inadequate". He said: "The soldiers have my sympathy and so does the public."Reuse content