Fire service reports 1,500 hoax call-outs
FIREFIGHTERS attended more than 1,500 hoax and malicious call-outs last year, new figures reveal.
Records show the number of fire-related incidents fell by 14pc over the last five years, with the amount of car crashes attended by crews down by a quarter.
The Irish Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) confirmed the seven fatalities from fire so far this year was also lower than previous years.
Seamus Murphy, chair and Mayo County fire officer, said the introduction of fire and road safety awareness initiatives across Ireland had contributed to the dramatic reduction in fire-related deaths and emergency calls.
Fire records showed 38 deaths last year and the same in 2010; 42 in 2009; 35 in 2008, and 41 in 2007.
However a survey of more than 20 county and fire rescue service units found the number of malicious false alarms remained "unacceptably high", accounting for 3% of the estimated 50,000 call-outs around the country last year.
The figures were released at the two-day CFOA conference in Dundalk, which was opened by environment minister Phil Hogan.
He said there was excellent collaboration between the fire service and community and voluntary sectors, particularly during severe weather.
"I firmly believe that it is through working with communities themselves, not only by responding when a fire or emergency happens, that we can improve public safety," Mr Hogan said.
Irish and UK fire service developments, regionalism of the fire service, the provision of combined fire and ambulance service, an effective building control system, operational risk-taking, and the use of computer fire models were among the issues being discussed by delegates from all over the country.
Mr Hogan also warned there was a need to reappraise service delivery structures to ensure the best systems for effective delivery.
"Public services, such as the fire services, are evaluated by reference to their contribution to society, efficiency and value-for-money," he added.
"In this context we must be able to demonstrate value-for-money in the 260 million euro of revenue which local authorities spend on their fire services every year.
"Bringing about the agreed changes will fall to yourselves in your role as service leaders and managers.
"However, you have good experience of collaborative implementation of previous initiatives which bodes well for the future of the fire service."
Mr Murphy said his members were willing to continue to work with agencies to explore what structures and arrangements were best suited to provide a fire service for the future.
"It is imperative that the Government works toward a fire service that provides the current range of services in an effective and efficient manner and is acceptable and responsive to local communities," he added.
"Any proposed changes should be well researched and based on sound economics.
"It would be unacceptable to fire officers and the communities they serve if any newly introduced structures and arrangements were less efficient and less responsive than the current model."