A move to end full-time emergency response cover on weekends at Antrim Fire Station could be 'devastating' for public safety, the Fire Brigades Union has said.
The station will reduce the number of hours it provides the community with full-time emergency response from 84 hours per week to 50.
Jim Quinn, leader of the FBU in Northern Ireland, said: “We are deeply concerned that this move could have devastating consequences for the safety of the public.
“These cuts are not linked to any change in the risk faced by firefighters or the public they serve. This is a purely financially driven decision following budget cuts to NIFRS by the Department of Health.
“The Secretary of State has said that civil servants can decide how to spend the extra £50m earmarked for health and education in Northern Ireland. As NIFRS personnel are now being spread too thin, the FBU believe the Permanent Secretary for Health should use part of this additional funding to prevent these dangerous reductions to fire cover.”
Responding, a spokesperson for NIFRS indicated the organisation is changing the crewing model at Antrim Fire Station to make the most effective use of firefighters based on evidence produced from a risk profile analysis of the station area.
It was also confirmed that part-time firefighters will continue to provide emergency cover at the station.
“Fulltime firefighters will still be based at the station but the hours will change from 7.30am – 7.30pm, seven days a week to 8am-6pm Monday-Friday. The current part-time firefighters will continue to provide an on-call response 24/7," the spokesperson said.
"The number of fire appliances available at the station remains the same."
The new crewing arrangements will be introduced from November 20.
“Crewing arrangements have changed at six other stations in the last year – Carrickfergus, Portadown, Armagh, Newtownards, Omagh and Coleraine – bringing Antrim into line with other stations with a similar risk profile," the spokesperson added.
“NIFRS must remain flexible and able to adapt the service delivery model to respond to the changing needs of the local community whilst still maintaining firefighter and public safety.
“NIFRS will continue to analyse and monitor risk and resource allocation across all stations to ensure the best fire and rescue service provision to the local community.”