City Firefighters Sound the Alarm on Staffing In Wake of Boundary Extension

by SEAMUS WHELEHAN

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Cork City Firefighters say they are concerned that the City expansion could put lives at risk unless a major recruitment drive takes place.
At present there are approximately 140 Firefighters assigned to the Cork City Fire Department.

According to sources within the Fire Service they fear that if current crewing levels are maintained the City’s Fire Service will be over stretched, putting the public at risk.

Fire Safety Audits on public buildings and rented accommodations may also affect residents’ health and safety, they say. From the 31 May Cork City will almost double its population, to include the Satellite towns of Glanmire, Douglas, Blarney, Ballincollig and parts of Passage.

The City Fire Crew say these towns and villages will be left without a rapid response fire cover which City residents currently have, due to cost implications.

Just ten part time Firefighters from Ballincollig Fire Station will be among 200 County Council staff transferring to City Hall from midnight on the 31 May, to continue providing fire cover for that area.

The Firefighters say they are willing to take over and provide full fire cover for the new boundary with the appropriate recruitment and funding needed, but the City Council have decided against this option which is believed to be cost related.

According to a source within the City Fire Service, City Council has not had a major recruitment for its Fire Service since 2012, meaning fire crews would struggle to provide cover if the boundary extension was enacted this May.

There has been a significant number leaving the fire service of recent, reaching the retirement age of 55 years, with others leaving early for personal reasons.

As the City has grown over decades the Fire Service has not increased its manning levels, and population growth is expected to break the 300,000 mark within the next decade.

It is estimated that an additional resource of up to 100 fire personnel will be required to operate effectively within the enlarged city, which will grow five times its current size as the population almost doubles.

Fire crews say they are alarmed that low staffing levels will affect the turnout of fire engines in the City, putting lives and property at risk.

Cork City Fire Service has the quickest turn out times in the country at 1.3minutes, and there is fear that the new residents will suffer because the City will not fund the extra service needed to provide all new residents with the same level of fire cover that is currently provided.

The City Fire Service refute this stating “there is a continual cycle of recruitment, promotion and retirement within the Department which is managed in conjunction with the Human Resource Department, Cork City Council.”

A spokesperson for the Council which is responsible for the Fire Service, said it was committed to the “highest level” of public safety.

An agreement has been in place for several years between both Cork County Fire Service and the City Fire Service with regard to response arrangements in the County areas immediately outlying Cork City.

City Council say “this agreement will remain in place through the Boundary extension period. There will be no loss of fire service cover for any area within Cork City and Cork County.”

A source within the Cork City Fire Service has said that from the 31 May the County will retain responsibility for areas within the extended City.

“If, for instance, there is a fire in Rochestown the responsibility will rest on Carrigaline to deal with the incident, which would have a turn out time up to 15 minutes behind a City appliance” they said.

While there are concerns that the service will be understaffed and ill-equipped to protect the district, it has also been said that the City intends to operate a cost cutting two-tier system for new City dwellers.

At present the Fire Service is free of charge in the City, but new residents living in the transition area may be expected to pay for a call out as has been the case for County fire crews. In a statement to The East Cork Journal the City Council said it currently has no plans to charge its fire callout service.

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