FIREFIGHTERS have been called out nine times since union members started a 24-hour strike.

The Essex Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members are on strike until 9am tomorrow morning - the third walk out in three weeks in a protest over service cuts.

Since the start of the action at 9am today, working crews have attended five false alarms, including one at Phones 4 U in Basildon, others were at Braintree, Southend and Colchester.

They also attended a tree fire in Chelmsford Road, Battlesbridge this afternoon, the fire was out on arrival. Other incidents were dealt with in Chelmsford, Witham and Loughton.

An Essex County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said about 120 firefighters are still working today, along with more than 30 officers and senior management.

They are also being supported by a number of retained crews.

Service managers were due to meet with representatives from Acas this morning to try and find a way forward in the long running dispute, which has been ongoing for three years.

During times of reduced fire cover, the fire service has advised residents to still call 999 in an emergency. They are also encouraged to test smoke alarms.

As part of today's walk out, striking firefighters also held a rally and march in Chelmsford and were heard booing as they marched past County Hall in Duke Street.

Firefighters first held an eight-hour strike on June 28 and a one-hour walkout nine days later. It is thought more industrial action will take place if an agreement cannot be struck between the FBU and fire service bosses.