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Sinn Féin TD makes Dáil plea for urgent reform and investment in fire service

23 March, 2006

Speaking during Matters on the Adjournment in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe called for "urgent reform and investment" in the fire service because, he said, "without substantial change a disaster is waiting to happen."

Deputy Crowe said, "In 2004 Dublin Fire Brigade responded to well over 200 incidents a day on average. This single statistic is by itself a testament to the skill, courage and determination of the men and women of the Fire Brigade. We believe that without substantial changes, a disaster is waiting to happen. Our overstretched Fire Service is unable to respond adequately, which could result in substantial, and unnecessary loss of life. There is an urgent need to focus attention on the need for reform and investment in the fire service.

"Dublin Fire Brigade deliver a range of services. It is unacceptable that the last fire risk assessment was carried out over 20 years ago.

"I would ask the Minister to indicate in his response if the Government would be prepared to pursue the issue of putting such an assessment in place with the various local authorities.

"Blanchardstown fire station, whose area includes Connolly hospital as well as a major chemical storage facility, has just one fire appliance. Fingal includes some of the largest chemical sites in the State but to date has no equipment for mass decontamination. In addition, the two high reach turntables for buildings over three stories are based in Tara Street and would require a lengthy period of time to reach areas like Fingal or my own area in Tallaght where there are 12 storey apartment complexes being built.

"In my opinion there is also a short-sighted approach and criminal disregard taken to the non-involvement of the Fire Brigade in planning matters in Dublin. Since it is not represented on many of the major planning forums in the city and county due consideration is not given to how good planning can impact, for example, on access to fires and other emergencies, a faster reaction time, in allowing multiple units to congregate at a serious incident and enabling sustainable traffic diversions to be put in place. At present the Dublin Fire Brigade is not represented on the Northern Fringe Forum and the forums overseeing developments at Adamstown, Poolbeg, Rathmichael, Cherrywood and Cherry Orchard.

"Another indictment of the parties that have been in power relates to the fact that the number of fire brigade ambulances in Dublin has not increased since 1986. The number of emergency calls received annually have increased significantly from 26,000 to over 80,000. There are still only 11 ambulances. The fatal accident on Dublin's South Quays in 2004 that left five people dead stretched the fire and ambulance units. Eight ambulances were deployed to Wellington Quay, leaving just three for the rest of the county. Therefore two major accidents occurring at the same time would cause a major problem and would inevitably lead to serious injury and loss of life." ENDS

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