Cuts to fire crews will ‘endanger lives’, union warns

Siptu calls for pledge from candidates against reductions in firefighters

Firefighters deal with a fire in an unoccupied thatched cottage in Portmarnock, Co Dublin last year.  Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Firefighters deal with a fire in an unoccupied thatched cottage in Portmarnock, Co Dublin last year. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times


Lives will be put at risk across the State if local authorities vote to reduce the number of fire-fighters on fire trucks, their union Siptu has warned.

Members of the union’s Retained Fire Fighters committee yesterday called on local election candidates to pledge opposition to measures, due to come before councils in the autumn, which they say would mean cuts to fire rews in all areas, including Dublin.

Currently all fire trucks mobilising to a fire should have a crew of six firefighters, they say.

Siptu organiser Michael Wall said proposals coming before councils, if passed, would see the number cut to five firefighters on the first truck mobilised, and four per second and subsequent trucks. “This would render these trucks absolutely useless and unsafe,” he said. “It is very alarming.”

Ciaran Scallan, a retained firefighter in Wexford, said each of the six crew members had a vital function. “Two will go into the fire, two will be held back to go in and rescue them if they get into trouble, one has to operate the appliance and the pumps and one is in command.”

Under Section 26 of the Fire Services Act every local authority must adopt a Fire and Emergency Operations Plan before the end of the year. A template plan has been issued to each local authority by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management. “There will be a normal crew compliment of five personnel to include a designated incident commander on the first Alpha appliance mobilised,” it says. “All subsequent appliances mobilised..will normally have a minimum compliment of four, including a designated crew commander.”

Mr Wall said the policy would “delay turnaround timed and endanger lives”.

The number of full-time firefighters in the State was already too low, said Mr Scallan, having has fallen from 1,219 full-time firefighters in 1999 to 1,170 today, including the 800 in Dublin Fire Brigade. The number of retained firefighters has fallen from 2,083 in 1980 to 2,063 now, during a time when the population had increased from 3.4 million in 1980 to 4.5 million.

A spokeswoman for Dublin Fire Brigade confirmed a plan for the capital’s fire service was being drawn up. “The plan will take account of national policy and operational requirements.”

A Department of the Environment spokeman said the local authorities were required to review their existing plans before the end of the year, and this was in keeping with a new blueprint for fire services adopted last yearcalled ‘Keeping Communities Safe’. This would not mean a reduction in fire crews, but would see the number of services in the State reduced from 30 to 21.