A CONTINUED strain is being placed on the fire service in County Waterford according to local firefighters.
The Munster Express understands that bed and breakfast accommodation was provided in Kilmacthomas for a fireman from Portlaw at the weekend so that numbers at the Kilmac station could reach the required criteria. This member then joined a fire crew from Kilmac in responding to an incident in Portlaw on Friday night.
Rural stations such as Kilmacthomas and Portlaw 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.A road traffic accident in Pouldrew on Saturday evening saw two crew members in an Alpha 1 fire engine attending from Portlaw, backed up by members from Kilmacthomas.
However, a concerned retained fireman who spoke to The Munster Express says it is not normal procedure for just two members to respond in such a vehicle and claims it is in breach of Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs)
He says Waterford City & County Council contradicted its previous statements requiring five members to be ‘on call’ by allowing two members from Portlaw to respond to this incident.
He also claims the current staffing arrangement means the fire service in County Waterford has been put back around 15 years.
Firefighters at the Kilmacthomas station have been available and willing to respond to incidents but the station has been declared ‘off the run’ for many weeks as it has been unable to meet the required staffing criteria.
There have also been occasions when both Kilmacthomas and Portlaw Fire Stations have both been ‘off the run’ at the same time.
While Kilmacthomas Station has been responding to recent incidents, one concerned firefighter says the current arrangement of providing accommodation for a fireman from Portlaw in Kilmacthomas is unsustainable.
Referring to Friday night’s incident, Portlaw based Cllr Declan Clune (SF) has pointed out that the town has a new fire station but a fire crew from another station had to respond to the incident.
“It is absolute madness that a tender from another area has to literally pass our station to attend an incident in our town,” he said.
“What if it was a serious house fire? What difference would the extra 30 minutes make? ”