Derry City & Strabane District Council has formally opposed cuts to the Fire Service and has warned that this will compromise the safety of local people.
A motion outlining the concerns was tabled by SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins at the Full Monthly meeting on Thursday.
Colr. Dobbins called on the Council to “note the crucial role of the NI Fire and Rescue Service in responding to fires, road traffic collisions, flooding and other specialist services and in providing an educational service in terms of safety”.
Her motion further expressed “regret that it has not been considered a frontline service by the current Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety”, as well as concern that “proposed cuts will compromise public safety by downgrading fire stations and increasing response times, as well as compromising the safety of fire officers”.
Colr Dobbins said fire-fighters “have often put their lives at risk for the safety and protection of others”.
She added that the service has been stretched to the extreme, with the Union warning that it will be unable to meet statutory requirements if further cuts are imposed.
“Even in our own area Northland Road has had to downgrade its aerial appliance,” Colr Dobbins said.
Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson said the cuts would undoubtedly affect delivery. He said that he had witnessed first hand how the Fire Service recently saved lives during a gas leak on Spencer Road and said they were clearly a frontline service.
Independent Councillor Sean Carr said the Fire Service often had to work in extreme and challenging conditions including at road accidents and in water rescue incidents.
DUP Councillor Hilary McClintock said the Fire Service did “fantastic work” and called for their funding to be ring-fenced.
“We have a large area of our council that is rural and we would hate to think response times would be affected in any way,” she added.
UUP Councillor Derek Hussey meanwhile said: “To say that the Fire & Rescue Service is not a frontline service is akin to saying the Police Service, the Ambulance Service, the Mountain Rescue and Coastguard is not.”
Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly cited the Fire Service’s critical intervention to prevent a bonfire at Meenan Square affecting an electricity substation, adding that ant cuts would have a detrimental effect.
Colr. Dobbins’ motion received the unanimous support of all councillors and was duly passed.