The Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association (IFESA) today (Thursday 29 th Jan ) expressed serious concerns at proposed reductions in the manning levels and changed rostering arrangements of Retained Firefighter crews being adopted by Chief Fire Officers throughout the country as part of the implementation of the Department of Environment Community and Local Government's ‘Keep Communities Safe' (KCS) policy.

IFESA said the implementation of the new guidelines (Good Practice Note 2.6) issued by the NDEFM in December 2014 and endorsed by the National Director for Fire and Emergency Management will mean that the weight of response to Fire Service incidents in Ireland will now be at danger levels both to the public but also to the Safety of Retained Firefighters that arrive on the scene. IFESA said it totally rejects the justification by the National Director to Chief Fire Officers and County Mangers throughout the country that these manning and roster changes are in the public interest.

Reacting to the proposed changes, IFESA Vice President, , Ros McCobb said ‘These changes will see a reduction in the manning levels of the first pump appliance from a Retained Station from six down to five which amounts to an overnight 17% reduction in Frontline Firefighters. This will mean an empty seat on a fire appliance travelling to a house on fire, car accident or other emergency.

‘Irish taxpayers are now paying our Government several times over for (taxation, government levy's, property tax, Fire Brigade charges) for an emergency fire service that is becoming a privilege and not just a basic right for every citizen. Senior Fire Officers are now making decisions on whether each emergency is worthy enough to justify mobilising a fire crew to attend. IFESA has time and time again warned of the consequences of the KCS policy which has resulted in reductions in numbers of firefighters, Station closures and call vetting, safety.'

‘IFESA are also concerned for our Retained Firefighters who despite being understaffed at critical incidents, bravely continue to serve the general public. These Firefighters are at breaking point as they struggle to meet the number of tasks necessary to complete on arrival at serious incidents. This latest round of cuts in manning and rostering raises yet further fears for the safety of Firefighters as well as the people they are out there to rescue.'

‘Retained firefighters effectively put their lives on hold to attend callouts via a pager system. The new rostering arrangements being introduced as part of the Good practice Note 2.6 are unworkable and will put Retained Firefighters under further financial and emotional strain'.

‘It is time for communities throughout the country to say ‘Enough is Enough' and stand up to protect their Retained Fire Service. IFESA is calling for the support of communities and politicians to urge Minister Alan Kelly to protect the vital role of the Retained Fire Service and to put an end to the practices in ‘Keeping Communities Safe' in particular the latest round of cuts in manning and rosters being implemented in its name.'

Media Contacts : Ros McCobb 0872164533

29 th January 2015