The county’s chief fire officer, Seamus Coughlan, said the move is necessary because the county’s size means that large parts of east and west Cork cannot be immediately accessed by those working in the service.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner at the Chief Fire Officers Association’s (CFOA) annual conference in Meelick, Co Clare, Mr Coughlan said the reality of having responsibility for covering such a large, mainly rural landmass means the fire service cannot always guarantee that it will immediately arrive at the scene of a crisis. And while he stressed that the county’s 215 fire fighters, who work in 21 stations across Cork, will be on hand to quickly rescue the vast majority of those whose lives are at risk, it is essential that families in urban and particularly isolated rural areas devise their own safety plans in the event of a crisis.
“Cork is a big county and there are areas that are a fair distance from local stations. We have community initiatives for those type of areas – advice for the home more than asking them to get involved and carry buckets of water – and there area reasons for that.
“We can’t have a fire station on every corner, and fire officers are meant to live within a mile of the station they work from. In some cases it can take 15 minutes or more to get to the scene of a fire, so we are asking people to be aware of the issues,” he said.
Among the options Mr Coughlan has advised are for families and those living alone to ensure smoke detectors are in place, to close internal doors at night – making it more difficult for a fire to spread – and to develop escape plans in the event of an emergency.
Cork fire service reacts to between 2,000 and 3,000 emergency calls every year, a figure which has remained stable in recent times.
While fires are becoming less frequent as a reason for the call outs, there has been a sharp rise in calls involving road traffic accidents, non-fire emergencies such as river accidents or flooding, and spillage of toxic chemicals.
One of the most recent major fires in Cork city occurred in late 2008 when eight fire brigade units battled through the night against a blaze which broke out in a furniture store on North Main Street.
At one stage all available city fire brigades were at the scene just off the city’s busy main thoroughfare Patrick Street, including two hydraulic lifts and countless off-duty officers.
No injuries were reported as a result of the blaze, which occurred late on a November evening.