Fire services close for up to 72 hours due to staff shortages
The Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) are warning of a “potentially dangerous situation” arising from the temporary closure of fire stations in Waterford.
The closure is as a result of a “lack of cover for staff attending mandatory training” and a general shortage of staff to cover sick or annual leave.
The IFESA claim that “staff have been told to expect a further 72 hour shut down in the coming week.”
In a statement, the body warned that the “shortfall in number of retained firefighters” is a “worrying and dangerous situation”.
“The question IFESA is asking is where is this going to stop and at what price in terms of the safety and protection of the community who are being left without adequate fire services.”
Speaking to Independent.ie, the IFESA National Chairperson John Kidd explained:
“They haven’t been recruiting, and that’s the problem…. It’s so bad, (retained firefighters) have been ordered to be on call twenty-four hours, seven days a week.”
“(Part-time staff) should get one week on, one week off, but they’ve ordered them to stay on… basically 52 weeks a year.”
He stated that the group have been attempting to fight this for some time before releasing the statement. “We’ve been writing letters for months… the staff need to be trained but they need to be recruiting”.
“In 2011, they closed 3 part-time stations in Offaly. That move only saved the State €350,000."
Waterford is not the only station experiencing shortages, and Kidd fears the closures will “spread across the country”.
According to Galway Bay FM, a dispute over staffing levels in Galway has been escalated to the Labour court in an effort to stop strike action by the firefighters, who claim that their complement of twelve part-time retained crew is ‘not enough’ to cater for training, sick and annual leave.
The IFESA wants to see the fire service become independent and amalgamate with the ambulance services.
“I’m looking for an independent, national fire and ambulance service. I’ve estimated we would save over €50m a year which the IMF has backed. The problem is that I can’t get the government to listen…I can’t get politicians down to support this.”
Kidd claims there is an issue of “too many fire chiefs”.
“To keep numbers on the ground – fire trucks- we need to reform management. 98pc of management were never operational staff. They often bring up Scotland as an example but we don’t have the same numbers. We have only 3,400 full and part-time staff for twenty-six counties”.
The Waterford County Fire Service issued a statement in response to the claims made by the IFESA.
"Waterford County Council wishes to confirm that the station was not closed for a period of 72 hours. The Station was closed on November 19th, 20th and 21st from approximately 08.30 to 18.00 to facilitate essential training of the fire fighters, in the event of a chemical incident.
During this time, the Cappoquin area was covered by the firefighters stationed in the nearby town of Lismore which is located approximately four miles away which is normal practice.
Waterford County Fire Service has an ongoing recruitment process to fill vacancies as they arise and a number of new recruitments have been finalised during 2013.
It should be noted that Waterford County has a total of nine retained stations to provide fire response for a population of approximately 60,000. This degree of cover is well in excess of National Average figures."