Dublin Fire Brigade is ‘under strain, over-stretched and under-resourced’ according to Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan.
The fire service was unable to put “a number of services” into action on New Year’s Eve with one-fifth of its frontline workers absent due to COVID.
Last night, Chief Fire Officer Dennis Keeley told a Dublin City Council meeting that just over 200 members were out of action on the night.
He said the situation has improved in the days since and DFB has introduced a range of mitigation measures – including fast-tracking the qualification of new staff and suspended training courses for operational staff.
On Breakfast Briefing this morning, Cllr Doolan said 12 appliances, including Fire engines, ambulances and a rescue truck, were off the road on New Year’s Eve.
“That puts the staff and the public they serve at risk,” he said. “I am in daily contact with the fire service, the fire fighters and the unions that represent them. They are under strain, over-stretched and under-resourced.
“They are now dependent on overtime to meet the demands of the city. That is not a healthy place to be. It is not best practice and it puts the fire fighters themselves under considerable strain and risk.
“That is not good for the fire fighter.”
Cllr Doolan said he fundamentally disagrees with claims the staffing crisis is due to COVID.
“COVID is not the cause of the staffing crisis,” he said. “The cause of the staffing crisis is under-resourcing. The cause of the staffing crisis is because there are not enough staff in place.
“Of course, with COVID, there is an impact on services as there is with all public services right across Irish society. But we can’t simply whitewash the issue and say only for COVID everything would be Ok. That is not true.”
There are currently 965 fire fighters in Dublin – and Cllr Doolan said management and unions have previously agreed that 1,000 frontline members should be on duty each day.
“The staffing crisis didn’t start with COVID,” he said. “It has been going on for many years.
“We have seen this crisis develop and deepen and now it has come to head. What we need to do is bring a laser-like focus on the solution.”
Cllr Doolan said there are currently 80 people on the interview panel who are waiting to be trained and put into the fire stations and a further 300 waiting to be interviewed.
He said they all now need to be progressed and placed in fire stations to ensure DFB is at a standard to meet the demands of 21st Century Dublin.