A war of words has broken out between Waterford County Council and firefighters in the county over claims some rural stations are being closed for days to facilitate training.
The Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) said lives are being put at risk due to smaller, retained stations having to close down for periods of up to three days to accommodate training. It claimed Cappoquin station in Co Waterford closed for 72 hours last week and is due to close for a similar period in the near future.
The IFESA also said that the Dunmore station closed at Hallowe’en and, in both cases, cover had to be provided by nearby stations, with longer call-out times.
It is understood the training undertaken at Cappoquin was a chemical response course, but the IFESA said the station is supposed to have 10 staff to facilitate five staff working a week on/week off roster, but instead it has seven staff.
But the acting chief fire officer in Waterford county, Billy Hickey, rejected the claims. He said the Cappoquin station was closed only while the training was on.
IFESA chairman John Kidd said the temporary station closures could result in fire teams from nearby stations taking up to 30 minutes to respond to a call-out. “My view is that no stations should be closed,” he said, calling the temporary closures ‘wrong’ and ‘crazy’.
“Staff have to be recruited,” he said. “It is putting people’s lives at risk. We are supposed to have extra staff to cover the training.”
Mr Kidd said, while calls to cut the cost of operating the fire service were reasonable, it was the issue of local fire services being operated through local authorities that needed to be addressed.
Waterford City and County fire services are due to amalgamate and it is understood that in all cases of temporary closures the training schedule had been publicised well in advance.
Mr Hickey said the number of firefighters in the county had actually increased and said, in the case of Cappoquin, the station of Lismore was nearby and provided cover. He also said no station would be closing for 72 hours but only for the time of actual training.
However, Mr Kidd claimed the amalgamation was being used as “an excuse not to recruit”.
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