Island’s fire brigade service ‘extremely limited’

A report into fire brigade facilities on the country’s second most populated island, Arranmore, has found that the services are “extremely limited” and in some areas below standard.

Island’s fire brigade service ‘extremely limited’

The report into facilities on the Co Donegal island also found of the fire station’s location: “It was noted that parking at the adjacent bar impinged upon the fire station forecourt. It was reported that this has resulted in a delayed turnout on previous occasions.”

It found “the existing station does not fulfil minimal functional requirements nor provide firefighters with facilities conducive to safety, health and welfare as required under law. The provision to the firefighters and residents of Arranmore should be no less than any other station.”

The assessment of the suitability of fire service facilities on Arranmore Island was carried out by James Murphy, a retired former senior fire officer with Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, on behalf of Donegal Firefighters Association. Copies of the report have been passed to county councillors in Donegal, who are due to discuss the issue at a meeting on Monday.

The report points out that Arranmore has a regular population of almost 500 but that during the summer months this can rise to around 1,100, mainly due to tourists and students studying Irish. It also has two primary schools, a secondary school, hotels, and pubs.

It has an establishment of seven firefighters but just two are retained firefighters. In contrast, Inis Mór on the Aran Islands has a fully retained crew.

Of the fire station on the island, constructed in 2003, the report states: “Fire precautions comprises of three fire extinguishers. There is no fire alarm and detection or emergency lighting.”

According to the report: “The facilities at Arranmore are extremely limited. All activities are taking place in one area which lacks provisions such as adequate heat and basic comfort.”

Among the observations are that the standard of heating is unlikely to conform with requirements under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, and that wet fire kit and other equipment cannot be dried. It points out that “damp fire kit conducts heat more than dry kit and is therefore less protective in a fire situation as well as being less comfortable”.

The report also highlights other shortcomings, including how storage of equipment is “haphazard” and a general lack of space for meetings and training.

Recommendations include that the station be provided with a jeep-type vehicle, as in mainland stations, and that “consideration should be given to the provision of a new build station.

“The existing structure is too small to allow for remodelling. A new station may be more cost-effective than extending and upgrading the existing structure.”

It also said the station should have a fire alarm and detection in accordance with regulations and linked to a call handling company, as the fire station is “an invaluable community asset” and as such “early warning in the event of fire is considered essential to protect the property and ensure the ongoing availability of the service”.

A spokesman for the DFA said: "The DFA commissioned these reports in an effort to improve the facilities on both Islands. We fully support the members on the Islands and ask all stakeholders and elected officials to get together and find a way forward."

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