AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Eight local firefighters recently extended their overnight strike time by two hours.

Since early June, they’d been on strike during the “resting period” of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. They extended their strike time to 8 a.m.

The strikers are among 82 total firefighters at the base.

The Aviano fire chief said he wants the men to return to their regular overnight shifts but added that his staff is making do without them.

“We’re able to cover for them and carry out the mission,” Chief Master Sgt. David Donan said Wednesday.

“[The strike] has all been peaceful and we’re trying to keep it as professional as possible.”

The strikers have been protesting alleged unsafe overnight accommodations.

“We’re as safe and healthy as we can make the facility or I wouldn’t put GIs in it,” Donan said.

Attempts were unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon to contact union representative Gianni Iandolo.

Donan said the striking firefighters are valuable because of their experience. Most of his staff rotates in and out from Aviano every two or three years and have less experience. The local nationals are longer-term employees.

Fighting fires is a small part of the company’s mission.

It also cleans up hazardous materials, provides emergency medical response and responds to auto accidents, among other duties. The station is situated along the flight line at Aviano and the company responds to potential trouble involving aircraft.

The firefighters also work with the nearby Pordenone fire company to provide off-base assistance.

A new $3.4 million fire station is being built as part of the Aviano 2000 construction project. The 30,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in March 2005.

“The eventual answer is the new station,” Donan said.

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