Winchester firefighters say a chemical spill they were called to could have been highly dangerous had it been just hours later.

On Monday evening, less than 12 hours before they resumed their strike action, crews were alerted to an Over Wallop laboratory, near Stockbridge.

Leading firefighter, Ian Wadmore, said: "We had to put on chemical protection suits and breathing apparatus to go into the building and make it safe. Green Goddesses don't have any of this equipment so I don't know what they would have done."

At 9am on Tuesday, firefighters across Hampshire walked out of their stations for the first time this year.

Throughout Hampshire there were 31 call-outs during the 24-hour walkout and more than half were false alarms.

At Winchester Fire Station, sub-officer Dave Graham said: "The public are still supporting us. We're aware that the issue - and what the dispute is really about now - has been diluted. It's no longer a dispute about pay, it's about keeping the fire service we still have."

He said he was "very disappointed" to be taking further industrial action, and added that he hoped negotiations would go ahead before next week's scheduled strikes.

However, the stalemate continued this week, with the Fire Brigades Union maintaining that employers were failing to compromise.

A spokesman said: "We will not continue talks when pre-determined outcomes are all that are offered. What trade union would sign up to an agenda that is not negotiable and completely locked to reforms that cut jobs and conditions, and reduce proper public safety and protection?"

At a meeting in Winchester yesterday (Thursday) firefighters agreed to take a tougher stance.

FBU spokesmen said they hoped members would not attend emergency call-outs - but they stressed that it would be up to each firefighter to decide whether to break the picket line.

Firefighter, Graham Simpson, said: "We're hardening our stand. If it comes to stalemate in talks, I think you'll find anything is possible - we would consider any avenue."

Failing a national settlement, 48-hour strikes are set to begin on Tuesday, January 28th and Saturday, February 1st.