Written answers

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Fire Service

Photo of Aindrias MoynihanAindrias Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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142. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the progress on the review of retained fire services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12075/22]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail)
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The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy, providing the legislative framework, running a central training programme and issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects. Fire services issues are managed in my Department by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM).

Fire services are provided in Ireland by local authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003. Under this legislation, there are 31 fire authorities which provide fire prevention and fire protection services for communities through 27 service delivery structures. Local authority fire services are delivered by approximately 3,300 local authority staff engaged at 217 fire stations nationwide. 16 of these stations being staffed by full-time firefighters, a further 4 are mixed full-time and retained, and 197 are staffed by retained firefighters, with approximately 2,065 retained firefighters around the country. It is important to note that the numbers of fire service front-line staff have been maintained at a constant high level throughout the economic challenges of the past number of years, even when staffing numbers, by necessity, were reduced in other areas of the local authority sector.

In 2013, my Department published 'Keeping Communities Safe (KCS) - A Framework for Fire Safety in Ireland'. The adoption of KCS as national policy saw national norms/ standards being established for fire services in Ireland for the first time, against which local authority fire services could benchmark themselves. The report of the Fire Service Validation Group, ' Fire Services in Ireland, Local Delivery - National Consistency', published in 2016, noted the staffing arrangements in place in fire services across Ireland to achieve these standards and that fire services manage staffing levels in fire stations to achieve the national standards of fire service response.

The provision of fire services by local authorities is based on a risk management approach which involves an analysis of the nature of the fire hazards and the incidence and extent of fires which occur, as well as the fire protection measures in place. There has been a welcome downward trend in the incidence of fire, with the fire fatality rate per million of population, using a three-year average, currently at 4.3 deaths per million of population. While each death is one too many, this figure is a third of what it was twenty years ago when it stood at 12.9 deaths per million of population and positions Ireland among countries with very low fire fatality rates.

In May 2021, the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management mandated a small internal project team to undertake a review of the model of local authority ‘retained’ fire services delivery. This review will have a particular emphasis on the recruitment and retention of staff, with the proviso that due consideration also be given to input from the County and City Management Association (CCMA).

The objective of the review is to explore and understand the issues that are impacting on service delivery, to undertake research and analysis and to propose options which will underpin the continuing provision of effective and inclusive local authority fire services into the future. The Project Team will work with and report to the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management Fire Service Operations Committee in the performance of its functions.

The initial engagement element of the review is the gathering of appropriate data and information, to inform the needs analysis and option appraisals for further development. To that end, the project team undertook a procurement process and engaged the services of an independent consultant to survey the views of the personnel who work in the retained fire services and those that have recently retired from the retained fire services. In preparing the survey, the project team sought the views of retained services trade union representatives through the Fire Services National Oversight and Implementation Group.

That feedback in conjunction with consultation at appropriate stages with all key stakeholders during the review process, including central and local government, fire service management/staff, and the staffing interest groups will form the basis of the final review report. It is the expectation of the project team that the final review report will be submitted to the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management later in 2022. At that time, the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management will make a determination on the publication of the report.


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