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Tuesday 20 August 2019

Fire engines sitting idle as brigade doesn't have enough crew for them

Firefighters outside Greeg Court after a blaze broke out at the city centre apartment building. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Firefighters outside Greeg Court after a blaze broke out at the city centre apartment building. Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Fire engines are parked-up across the city on an almost daily basis because there are not enough crew to operate them, new figures show.

Just two weeks ago, five appliances were out of service because Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) did not have the necessary 25 crew members.

Units in Dolphin's Barn, Donnybrook, North Strand and Tara Street and a foam tender that covers the docklands and the airport were all out of action.

On Monday of last week, units in Dolphin's Barn and Tara Street and the environmental unit were down because the brigade was short of 20 crew members.

It was also down three district officers and five control room staff.

The shortages come amid some of the hottest days this year, with temperatures app- roaching 30C and fears of brush and gorse fires.

Retirements, annual leave, staff training, injury and sick leave put continuous pressure on resources.

Emergency service workers are now calling for a continual recruitment drive so crew numbers can be maintained at a sustainable level.

Dublin Fire Brigade is operated by the city council, and both are currently in discussions with trade unions to review and revise "agreed" staffing levels.

Overtime

"When, on occasions, the agreed operational crewing levels may not be achieved, a long-standing arrangement exists that will supplement these vacancies via non-compulsory overtime," said a spokeswoman for the city council.

"However, 'agreed' crewing levels may not be achieved because of non-availability of personnel on overtime.

"When this happens, a process is in place to minimise any adverse fire safety and service impacts.

"This may necessitate the temporary withdrawal from service of certain appliances. This action is regrettable."

Firefighters and paramedics have accused the council of "playing around with words" when explaining why the app- liances are off the road.

"We had all our appliances available to us on only one day out of seven last week," said Shane McGill, national secretary of the firefighters branch of Siptu.

"If last year's fire at the Metro Hotel in Ballymun broke out on July 10 when there were five engines off the road, there would have been serious consequences.

"If we have 36 officers and 138 firefighters on duty, then we can put all the appliances on the road.

"On Friday, July 12, we had 23 officers and 115 firefighters, which was increased to 121 firefighters after a call for overtime.

"That left a number of appliances off the road.

"We have been in the Workplace Relations Commission with Dublin City Council in February over manning issues, and there was an agreement in March for more trainees.

"First, they said it would happen in May, then that changed to August.

"We need constant, ongoing recruitment to cover absences and replace people who are retiring.

"There are also plans for fire stations in Cherrywood and Clonburris, as well as opening a full-time station to replace the part-time services in Skerries and Balbriggan.

"These will all need to be manned."

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