Talks between the council and the Fire Brigades Union broke down on Friday after a resolution to the dispute over£1.5 million budget cuts had seemed close.
The FBU plans strikes on 29 April and 2 May.
FBU legal and pensions officer Ken Brandling said: 'Other authorities seem to be making a concerted effort to avoid these cuts - even those that don't have the reserves to do it. Essex has£9 million in reserves and is not prepared to use them to offset cuts of£1.5m.'
But an Essex spokeswoman said the reserves covered just three days' spending and were not available.
She said: 'We are always willing to talk to the FBU. The ball is in their court.'
-- Part-time firefighters in north Wales were due to meet on Wednesday night to discuss a proposed mass resignation over working conditions.
The dispute stems from differences in the terms and conditions of firefighters from the former Clwyd and Gwynedd authorities, which combined to form the north Wales fire authority in April 1996.
A fire authority spokesman said the dispute stemmed from harmonising conditions rather than from budget problems.