28 November 2002 | Liam O'Brien
The end of the road may be in sight for the UK's ageing fleet of military "Green Goddess" fire engines if they are called in to service during many more fire brigade strikes.
Keeping the 8.4-ton behemoths in prime condition for the threatened eight-day strike has been a struggle for staff at the Marchington military maintenance base in Staffordshire.
The iconic 3-litre green lorries worked overtime during the recent 48-hour fire brigade strike, racing to 1,200 incidents at a maximum speed of 55 mph.
Spare parts for the fleet - built between 1953 and 1956 - are difficult, if not impossible, to obtain given that production of the officially named Bedford RL stopped in the late 1950s.
Staff at Marchington have had to modify new vehicle spares and cannibalise parts from unused vehicles to keep the Goddesses operational.
John Scofield, head of Green Goddess maintenance, told SM: "While the vehicles may be old, they are technologically very simple and we can modify them. But, as time goes on, the maintenance will become more of a problem."
He said it was doubtful they could keep the necessary number roadworthy.
Striking firefighters claim that some of the vehicles used in the latest dispute are not up to MOT standards.
There have also been reports of equipment failure.
In an incident in Liverpool, the BBC reported that it took the army 20 minutes to get water from a Goddess's hose.