Serious concerns have been expressed about the future of the fire service in Co Clare with calls for a report into the viability of the current ‘retained’ model.
The move follows the recent departure of highly trained firefighters from the service and fears that the current model won’t attract new personnel.
The county’s two busiest fire stations in Ennis and Shannon have lost a total of eight crew members, including a station officer and two sub-officers, in the past twelve months. Two firefighters, between them, had 40 years service and experience.
Firefighters from other stations have also left the service while members say more ‘will walk’ because of a massive drop in calls and claims there’s no ‘appreciation’ for the work they do from the local authority or fire service management.
Personnel say while a drop in the number of incidents is welcome news from the public safety perspective, they say there are calls they are not being sent to because of a call vetting policy introduced by management.
Firefighters have expressed concern about the countless incidents where gardaí or ambulance paramedics requested the attendance of the fire brigade at a scene but crews were not dispatched.
Today, a group of six councillors will raise the matter at the monthly meeting of Clare County Council and request a report from management on the sustainability of the retained firefighter model of providing fire and rescue services in Clare in terms of changing lifestyles, work/life balance, security of income and declining population in rural areas.
Cllr Johnny Flynn who said: “As a former Chief Fire Officer with 25 years experience, in equivalent fire services model with full time senior officers and retained firefighters, I greatly respect the commitment of the retained firefighter who puts his/her life not alone at risk in responding to emergencies but also puts it on hold because of the retainer payment system but often for inadequate compensation.”
“The requirement for firefighters to live within 1.5 miles of the station is also unrealistic with declining rural population meaning that staffing rural towns fire brigades can be very difficult. With economic pressures on all people but in particular young people in rural areas in terms of reducing income, due to a number of reasons, in return for their involvement in the fire service it seems that very well trained, at significant cost, firefighters may well be exiting the service,” Cllr Flynn added.
“As a county Councillor representing the Ennis Municipal District I am concerned to discuss with Management if a trend is emerging that would leave large tracts of both urban and rural Clare without essential first class fire and rescue services which I believe that senior fire officers within the service wish to maintain,” he added.
Shannon Councillor Gerry Flynn said: “I have been highlighting issues around emergency response for a number of years and I am certainly very happy to see a number of my colleagues in Clare County Council joining forces to try and improve this very vital service.”
“Retained Fire Fighters are highly trained to deal with emergency response covering a lot of areas and what’s needed now is a fresh approach to making their position more sustainable and I am confident that our new Chief Executive Officer will engage positively with all sectors to improve how this department of the local authority delivers to the public a service we can be proud of and at a level of affordability,” Mr Flynn added.
The councillors who are seeking the report in the viability of the service including Johnny Flynn, Michael Begley, PJ Kelly, Gerry Flynn, Christy Curtin and Ian Lynch.