FOURTEEN FIREFIGHTERS HAVE been suspended from Roscommon Fire Service as the chief fire officer today confirmed he has requested assistance from the Defence Forces as a precautionary measure.
Firefighters are in dispute over a breathing apparatus refresher training course which was due to take place today but which 14 firefighters did not attend leading to their suspension in what Chief Fire Officer Cathal McConn said was an “unprecedented” move.
The firefighters argue that they have concerns about the standards of the test but the fire service, operated by Roscommon County Council, says the course is necessary under health and safety requirements that need to be fulfilled in accordance with legislation.
As a result, the 14 firefighters were taken off the payroll, as well as having their pagers and access keys removed from them this morning. A hearing is scheduled at the Labour Relations Commission tomorrow.
Roscommon’s Chief Fire Officer Cathal McConn has told TheJournal.ie that Defence Forces’ assistance has been requested as a “contingency” and insisted that there was presently “adequate cover”.
“You wouldn’t be able to mobilise Defences Forces immediately,” McConn said. “They have to plan their resources as well. As of today and all day tomorrow we have no problem with our standard of cover. It’s only if things get worse.”
The Defence Forces have been requested to assist with emergency fire cover in Roscommon Town from midday on Wednesday, it is understood.
Roscommon has 58 firefighters in total across six stations in the county but with 14 now out-of-action, services will be stretched with the Irish Firefighter and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) warning of the implications this may have on the service’s ability to operate properly.
An IFESA spokesperson told TheJournal.ie it had concerns that it was fire officers and not firefighters who were delivering training.
“These instructors have never worn a breathing apparatus (BA) in a house fire and they’re trying to tell somebody who has been wearing it for years how to do it,” the spokesperson said. ”They’ve never worn it in a real-life situation.”
Concerns have also been raised about the stringent conditions which mean that officers who fail the refresher course cannot operate. McConn, rejected these complaints.
He insisted that the instructors who are fire officers “have been trained to the highest level” and that those who do not pass get another opportunity to do so.
“If at first you might not succeed then try and try again. They are always given that opportunity. It is never envisaged that they will be stood down,” McConn said.