Fire service cutting crews over budget pressures

Image caption The number of emergency calls handled by the fire service increased by 5.6% last year

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) is to cut crews to deal with budgetary pressures.

Documents seen by BBC News NI reveal that smaller towns are likely to be hit hardest.

Fire cover will move from full-time to part-time in a number of towns, including Carrickfergus, Enniskillen and Armagh city.

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The fire service says the cuts are a ‘temporary interim measure ‘.

“These temporary measures have been risk-assessed against the impact on both public and firefighter safety and will ensure a safe and effective service,” it said.

The latest NIFRS staff numbers show there are 812 fulltime firefighters in Northern Ireland.

In a statement NIFRS said it “intends to bring a number of new trainees into the organisation over the coming months to allow for the continued delivery of a safe and effective service”.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union said they are “outraged”.

There is a budget shortfall of about £3.2m for 2019-20, according to the union.

‘Template for disaster’

Union leader Jim Quinn said members have been briefed by senior management and it is probable that changes could take effect within weeks.

“We are shocked that it’s emerged this is a template for the future – we say it’s a template for disaster,” he said.

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Image caption Some large towns will see their fire service cover move from full-time to part-time

“As a result, the public and firefighters will be at risk as there will be a reduction in services across Northern Ireland.”

Belfast – where there are six stations with 11 appliances crewed on a full-time basis – is also affected.

Image caption Jim Quinn of the Fire Brigades Union says the move by the fire service is a “template for disaster”

“It’s important he meets us and listens to those on the front line as he controls the purse strings.”

On Thursday evening, the union was told it would be fully briefed on the changes first thing on Friday morning.

Stormont’s Department of Health said the fire service has been allocated a budget of £74.1m – an increase of £1.19m.

In a statement to BBC News NI, the Department added that the NIFRS was working to produce a break-even plan to support the 2019-20 budget allocation.

It said the union had written to Mr Pengelly on 5 July asking for a meeting and the request was being considered.

During 2018-19, the number of emergency calls handled by NIFRS increased by 5.6% on the previous year, to 38,511.

It also attended 24,586 incidents, up 2% on the previous year.

Original Article : HERE ;

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