Fears persist over fire service

WHILE the fire service has confirmed a full time staff will be retained at Enniskillen station, there are fears these staff members will have admin rather than fire-fighting roles.
Last August it was announced the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) was to temporarily reduce the number of full time staff at the station from five to three. This raised fears of a potentially life-threatening reduction in response times.
Concerned about the potential reduction becoming permanent, the Council wrote to Richard Pengelly, permanent secretary at the Department of Health which oversees the fire service.
Mr Pengelly replied that the current reduction in the local service was expected to last only last until the end of the financial year. He added, however, the service was currently assessing the impact of any potential changes to the service on rural areas.
“NIFRS have assured me any permanent changes will be appropriately considered and consulted upon before they are introduced,” said Mr Pengelly.
Mr Pengelly also stated a “full time presence” remained at the station. Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh took issue with this, branding the statement “deeply duplicitous” as it was feared the full time staff that will be retained at the station may only have administrative roles.
Speaking at the Council’s monthly meeting in Enniskillen Townhall last week, Cllr O’Cofaigh called on the Council to request clarity on whether the full time staff that will remain will still be available “to put out fires.”
“The implication is while a full time presence will be maintained, it will not be a full time presence to answer calls,” said Cllr O’Cofaigh.
Cllr Adam Gannon said local staff, who he said were “literally lifesavers”, were concerned about their jobs, said a ‘full time presence’ was not the same as having a full time fire service.
Cllr Howard Thornton said Mr Pengelly’s response was “very concerning”, particularly given there is an acute hospital in the county.
“Obviously, with the acute hospital here it is a major concern that we don’t have a full time fire response,” he said. “[The SWAH] was the reason the full time service was brought in here in the first place.”

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