The five year Fire and Emergency Operations plan 2017-22 for Kildare was adopted at the county council meeting on Monday, November 27, despite a call by firefighters to oppose it.
They claim the plan “will endanger the lives of the public and firefighters in Kildare”.
The adoption of the plan was long overdue for Kildare, and after a presentation from Chief Fire Officer Celina Barrett, councillors were advised by CEO Peter Carey not to hold it up any longer, despite serious concerns being raised about the plan from firefighters in the service.
However, a number of councillors said they could not yet support the plan due to the issues raised in a letter sent on behalf of the firefighters by SIPTU, which stated their members in the Kildare Fire Service had not been consulted in the formulation of the plan.
They are concerned that it has been put together in the absence of an overall Fire Risk Assessment of the total fire cover required for the county.
The report, meanwhile, is in keeping with the Department of the Environment’s “Keeping Communities Safe” (KCS) document, which is described as the blueprint for the future direction of the fire service ‘ to deliver consistent, effective and value for money fire services while continuing to reduce the risk from fires in communities and prioritising the safety of fire personnel in their work’.
KCS has been developed using a risk management approach, where risks are identified, classified and used to prioritise fire service activity in prevention, protection and response.
According to SIPTU, however, this policy has been “compiled without a baseline hazard assessment of what fire cover is required to adequately service county Kildare”.
The meeting heard that other concerns included the poor state of Monasterevin Fire Station, which dates back to 1950s and whether there are enough firefighters to safely deal with incidents in Kildare.
Fire safety issues were also raised in relation to poorly constructed timber frame homes. The letter from SIPTU, as seen by the Leader, states there has yet to be “a site specific assessment of the timber frame built environment which were constructed under a policy of self-regulation”, adding that it is unlikely there would be “an appetite” to conduct these risk assessments for fear they would identify that further resources would be required.
“Firefighters are rightly concerned that their lives would be placed at unnecessary risk in the absence of management exercising their duty of care responsibilities which would included the conducting of these assessments, ” the SIPTU letter states.
Several councillors argued that another month should be given to make the final decision on the plan in order to speak to firefighters in the Kildare service.
“This raises questions of whether there are enough firefighters to safely deal with incidents in Kildare,” said Cllr Brendan Young.
Cllr Mark Wall said he had serious concerns about Monasterevin Fire Station.
Cllr Joanne Pender said that in the wake of the Millfield fire, where six terraced timber framed houses in Newbridge went up in flames in under half an hour in 2015, it would be in their interest to postpone the plan for a month for further consultation.
CEO Peter Carey said that the council needs to have the plan in place to follow proper protocol. He said the report was fit for purpose and it would fulfill KCC’s statutory obligation as a Fire Authority.
“We are required by law to have this plan in place and that is of some concern to me. We invested heavily in our staff to make our brigades safe. Monasterevin Fire station is next in line for a new fire station after Maynooth. This is going on a long time and I am encouraging you to adopt this,” he said.
It was agreed to revisit the report annually. Twenty councillors voted to adopt the plan, 13 voted against and three abstained.