Fire and emergency services crews raced to a house fire in Campbell Street, Ramsgate, at the same time as NSW Fire and Rescue Service workers voted to strike over the state government's WorkCover reforms.
Father and son Andrew and Freeman Arbuckle were the first people on the scene about 1.30pm.
They were collecting scrap metal in the area when they saw smoke from the building.
‘‘We were driving past and we both jumped out. My dad told me to check if anyone was inside,’’ Mr Freeman Abuckle said.
‘‘There was a lady and her grandson. She was obviously distraught.’’
Freeman’s father Andrew, who phoned triple-0 as his son went inside, was told emergency services would be on the way.
Police arrived first, but Mr Arbuckle said that by the time firefighters came, the house was engulfed in flames.
The fire is believed to have burned through the ceiling to the roof.
Police said they ‘‘well and truly’’ arrived before any fire services.
Premier Barry O’Farrell angrily denounced the strike.
Speaking during Question Time in Parliament, Mr O’Farrell said it was most the most irresponsible strike by a public sector union he had seen.
The union could have gone on strike while leaving a skeleton crew to deal with emergencies, but they had rejected this option.
‘‘If you think I am angry, you are right, because what the Fire Brigade Employees Union has done today is threaten the safety of people across this city, in the Illawarra and in the Hunter,’’ he said.
Mr O’Farrell said the union had forfeited its right to meet with him because of the decision to put the community’s safety at risk.
A Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman said striking NSW firefighters did not attend the scene at Ramsgate because of industrial action announced earlier this morning.
‘‘Calls were re-routed to RFS and the airport brigade,’’ the spokesman said.
One crew from Airservices Australia and two from Rural Fire Service at Heathcote attended.
The spokesman said the fire had been extinguished.
An Airservices Australia spokeswoman said its firefighters received a formal request from Fire and Rescue NSW to provide assistance to the incident in Ramsgate.
‘‘We do at times respond to incidents outside (Sydney) airport,’’ she said.
Firefighters in Sydney, Wollongong and the central coast voted to stop work from 1pm to 6pm but other emergency services were expected to cover for them.
FIRE AND RESCUE RESPONSE
Fire & Rescue NSW said today at 5pm that NSW Police received a triple-0 call to a Sans Souci house at 1.02pm.
The call was immediately referred to the FRNSW Major Incident Coordination Centre at Alexandria, for resources to be dispatched.
During this time, two crews from Hurstville and one from Kogarah were on route to the industrial action in the Sydney CBD. They saw the smoke from the fire and immediately responded to the location. Crews were on scene within 13 minutes from the time of the call.
Firefighters conducted primary search and rescue and commenced firefighting operations. They then conducted a secondary search, remaining on scene until the arrival of personnel from the Aviation Rescue and Firefighting Service. They then proceeded to the industrial action.
Crews from Mortdale and Arncliffe, who were also on route to the industrial action, also responded to this fire, along with a fire truck from the training college in Alexandria - these resources were turned back by the FRNSW Duty Commander when the position was in hand.
Recovery operations are continuing and the cause of the fire is under investigation.