LOCAL firefighters have warned that ongoing staffing issues will soon impact on a “matter of life and death”. The stark warning comes as local stations were once again unable to respond to incidents in recent days.Kilmacthomas Fire Station remains ‘off the run’ while Portlaw Fire Station has also been ‘off the run’ for a period during the past week. Additionally, The Munster Express understands that another County Waterford station is grappling with a particularly high turnover of staff. fire engine
As reported last week, on Sunday July 8th, four retained fire stations in County Waterford were ‘off the run’ on the same day– Kilmacthomas, Portlaw, Lismore and Tallow.
One concerned firefighter, who did not wish to be named, believes it’s only a matter of time before a serious incident occurs which will involve a “matter of life and death”.
He says part-time retained firefighters are expected to be ‘on call’ on virtually a full-time basis and are not receiving adequate pay or time-off, highlighting what he has described as “huge discrepancies” between the hours worked and the pay received by full-time and part-time firefighters.
He believes the current contracts being offered, and the increasing strains being placed on part-time retained firefighters, will result in a serious staffing crisis escalating even further. In a recruitment advert in this week’s Munster Express, Waterford City & County Council is seeking applications for the position of retained (part-time) firefight for both Lismore Fire Station and Ardmore Fire Station. In relation to remuneration, the Annual Retained Allowance is listed as: 0-2 years’ service €7,817; 2-5 years’ service €8,686; 5-10 years’ service €9,741; 10 year + €10,705. There is additional payment for attendance at Fires and Drills and Clothing Allowance.
The advertisement states that persons must reside and, if employed, work within three kilometres distance or five minutes travelling of the Fire Station which will allow him/her to respond within the turnout time as set by the Chief Fire Officer.Applicants must be over 18 and under 55 years old.
CONCERNED retained firefighters in County Waterford say the numbers currently required to be ‘on call’ at any given time are “not practical” due to current staffing levels.
Waterford City & County Council says arrangements are always in place for situations where a retained fire station is not available to respond to calls, with cover in such cases decided upon on a predetermined basis by the nearest station.
The availability of all fire stations is communicated by local fire services management to the Munster Regional Communications Centre in Limerick which operates the emergency services phone line for the Munster region.However, there have been times when, as in the case of Kilmacthomas and Portlaw, two neighbouring stations have both been ‘off the run’ at the same time. Yesterday (Monday) Director of Services (Housing, Community and Emergency Services)with Waterford City & County Council Ivan Grimes confirmed that “a number” of brigades were ‘off the run’ for periods over the last two weekends “due to unforeseen circumstances”.
“In all instances, management ensured neighbouring brigades were available for any incidents that occurred,” he said.
He added: “In relation to Kilmacthomas Fire Brigade, the situation is that the Brigade remains unavailable for incidents at this time. Management are in discussions with the staff and their Union in order to resolve the matter.”
However, a firefighter who spoke to The Munster Express contradicted Mr Grimes’ assertion that firefighters are “unavailable” to respond.
He says firefighters are available to respond to incidents but are prohibited from doing so because of the Council’s staffing criteria.
Rural stations have generally employed eight staff members and, traditionally, four members were required to be ‘on call’ while four were ‘not on call’ at any given time.
However, the current requirements seek a fifth person to be ‘on call’.When numbers fall below five, the service is declared ‘off the run’ which means that crews cannot respond to an emergency call-out.Kilmacthomas Fire Station currently has six firefighters plus one trainee. In national media last week, it was reported that Dublin Fire Brigade had to reduce its services on Friday due to staff shortages.One fire appliance had to be taken out of commission because there were not enough rostered fire fighters to crew it and no personnel were available for overtime hours. Dublin City Council confirmed that on a number of occasions the “desired” number of firefighters had not been available for work.