Fire Service meeting sought over cuts

Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire and Rescue Service.

Derry City & Strabane District Council is to request a meeting with the Fire & Rescue Service over cuts to local fire services.

The move was suggested by SDLP councillor Jim McKeever at a meeting this week after the council received a letter from Derry Trades Union Council (DTUC) calling for a safety review in light of the cuts.

Under changes introduced this month, there will no longer be a dedicated crew in Derry to operate a specialist aerial appliance located here, which is used for tall buildings.

Mr McKeever said that there were over 30 buildings in Derry that the aerial appliance was needed to reach. “It is a serious situation and a serious risk to the public,” the former Fire & Rescue Service board member said, adding: “It’s a ridiculous situation putting everybody at risk, even personnel themselves.”

Sinn Fein councillor Brian McMahon said that while chatting to a fire-fighter he was told the same type of measures are not affecting Belfast. “You get a sense again of the east-west divide,” he said.

The UUP’s Derek Hussey said there were “extreme concerns” among firefighters over the aerial appliance and manning rural fire stations.

Independent councillor Gary Donnelly described the cuts as “absolutely shocking” and said that the role of fire-fighters at Grenfell and during incidents in which they helped rescue and remove people from the river in Derry were a stark reminder of how important they were local.

Independent councillor Maurice Devenney said: “If there is an east-west divide here then we as a council must take this fight on and lobby for equality. It will be too late when lives are lost.”

Sinn Fein’s Mickey Cooper proposed the council write to the relevant senior civil servant among others calling for the decision to be reversed, and Committee chair, Sinn Fein councillor Paul Fleming said in light of the request from DTUC, the council could ask for this review of the cuts decision and staffing levels as part of this letter. Mr McKeever seconded the proposal.