A draft fire and emergency operations plan for the Dublin region for the next five years has raised concerns about the age of firefighting, command and communications vehicles.
The plan, which is on public display until June 16th as submissions from members of the public and other interested parties on it are sought, sets out the strategy to provide fire and ambulance cover for a population of more than 1.3 million people, across the four Dublin local authorities, for the next five years.
The plan states some fire tenders are so old that parts can no longer be sourced for them.
It says when some vehicles are between five and 10 years old the service frequency and need to replace parts increase to the point where the cost of maintenance over a further three to four years “may be very close to the cost of a replacement vehicle”.
The plan says Dublin Fire Brigade’s logistics team “are currently examining the possibility of using different financial models to reduce the age profile of the fleet, such as leasing, etc”.
According to the plan’s inventory of existing vehicles, the capital’s firefighting tenders are up to 20 years old, with training and reserve vehicles sometimes even older.
The plan says Dublin Fire Brigade has 127 vehicles including about 20 active and reserve ambulances, a rigid inflatable boat, a forklift-style teleporter and a fuel bowser. The fire brigade also has a number of container-style units which can be used for incident support.
Of the fleet of more than 100 firefighting vehicles, fewer than a third are less than five years old. The brigade’s hazardous materials vehicle dates from 2001. The mobile communications unit, a Ford station wagon, dates from 2007. An “incident command unit” dates from 2008.
The draft operations plan notes Dublin Fire Brigade “continually checks the UK market for appropriate used vehicles to replace the Dennis Sabres [fire tenders] which we can no longer get parts for”. It said sourcing relatively new, used vehicles and special appliances from the UK “is becoming more challenging”.
Dublin Fire Brigade operates from 12 full-time fire stations located between Dún Laoghaire, Tallaght and Swords. Two “retained”, or part-time, bases are located at Balbriggan and Skerries. Capital funding for fire service vehicles and equipment comes from the Department of Housing and Local Government.
An emergency ambulance service with 12 full-time ambulances and a number of reserve vehicles is also operated by Dublin Fire Brigade. The vast majority of Mercedes ambulances in full-time service are all less than five years old. The supply of ambulances is funded by the Health Service Executive.
Asked about concerns raised in the draft plan, which it published for public consultation, Dublin City Council said the plan was out of date. The council said: “The existing draft and the comments with respect to fleet was developed last year. This section will be amended to reflect a more favourable position, ie DFB received four appliances last year and a turntable ladder.”
The council said “the Dennis Sabre appliances referenced are almost completely phased out, with only one remaining in service”.
The Department of Housing and Local Government said that since July 2021 it has provided more than €3 million in capital funding to Dublin City Council to support the purchase of emergency vehicles and ancillary equipment. This covered 10 new vehicles as well as thermal imaging cameras and tools for using in road crashes.
The department said it was “aware of supply-chain issues that have caused delays in the delivery of chassis for commercial vehicles. The department will continue to work closely with Dublin City Council to provide the requisite level of support to maintain the operational capacity of the Dublin Fire Brigade appliance fleet”.
Public consultation on the plan opened on May 16th and closes on June 16th. The plan is available here.