Concern Over Reduced NIFRS Crews

Politicians in Northern Ireland have expressed concern at reported cuts to fire crews with claims that public safety is being put at risk.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service is to reduce fire cover to part-time in some towns, including Carrickfergus, Enniskillen and Armagh city, the BBC has reported.

The "temporary interim measures" will be introduced to manage budgetary cuts. A fire service spokesperson said: "These temporary measures have been risk-assessed against the impact on both public and firefighter safety and will ensure a safe and effective service."

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler, who worked for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service for 16 years, said plans to slash crews will inevitably lead to an increased danger to public safety.

Robbie Butler MLA said: "These are quite simply frightening proposals. In my former role I saw almost daily the importance of appliances and personnel arriving at scenes as quickly as possible. Yet if these plans are pushed through, many thousands of homes across some of our main towns are going to have to wait longer for assistance and fires will be given more time to take hold.
News Image
"It is ridiculous that budgetary pressures are being placed ahead of public safety, as well as the safety of officers who are now being expected to do even more with less."

According to the MLA, the NIFRS business plan for 2018/19 stated that emergency cover is to be provided by an establishment of 917 full-time firefighters. There are only 812 full-time firefighters in place.

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan also raised concerns at the move, predicting implications for the service's ability to react to emergency calls and carry out vital inspection work.

"Ultimately this could put public safety and the safety of fire-fighters at risk," Mr Sheehan said.

"The Department of Health with responsibility for funding the fire and rescue service must engage meaningfully with the service and with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU)."

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw also expressed concern at the imminent budgetary cuts and called for further funding allocations for the service. She commented: "The rise in the budget allocated to the Fire Service is nothing like enough, falling clearly short of what is necessary in real terms. If there are options for reform of the Service we are happy to look at them, but effectively reducing the funding available while expecting the same level of coverage is clearly not an option.

"It should be emphasised again this is yet another consequence of the DUP and Sinn Féin failing to live up to the responsibilities that come with their mandates."


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

07 October 2010
Ireland-wide Fire Safety Week Underway
Ireland is 'going to blazes' as National Fire Safety Week takes place this week.
17 July 2001
THE Northern Ireland Fire Service is to receive the first ever award given by the province's devolved assembly. An illuminated scroll is to be presented to Chief Fire Officer John McClelland on Tuesday, by assembly speaker Lord Alderdice in tribute to the sacrifice made by fire fighters over the years.
13 March 2020
Council Buildings Closed To Public In Derry & Strabane
Derry City and Strabane District Council has taken the decision to close all council owned buildings to the public. The City of Derry Jazz Festival is also cancelled, along with a number of major events. The closures will take affect from 6pm today, Friday 13 March.
18 August 2014
Investigation Into South Belfast Fire
An investigation has been launched into a fire at a former primary school in south Belfast. The Fire Service confirmed they were called to the blaze at the school on School Road in Newtownbreda at about 22:00 on Sunday. It is understood the building was badly damaged in the fire.
02 September 2013
MLA Welcomes Attitude Change Towards Farm Safety
Ulster Unionist MLA and the party's agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson has said attitudes towards farm safety are changing. The Upper Bann MLA added that she welcomed the "sea change" in attitudes following a recent meeting with senior Fire Service officials.