Here is the latest from KCC regarding the Fire Service.
I intend to meet the County Manager again about the matter this week.
Our Ref: TC/LS/Fire Service Castlegregory
31st January, 2011
To: Cllr. M. O’Shea;
Cllr. B. Griffin;
Cllr. S. MacGearailt;
Cllr. M. Healy-Rae;
Cllr. T. Fleming;
Cllr. J. Sheahan
Re: Voluntary Fire Unit, Castlegregory
I refer to our meeting of 20th January, 2011 at which you raised concerns
regarding the future of the Volunteer Fire Unit in Castlegregory, following a public
meeting in Castlegregory on the previous night.
I have reviewed the matter with Mr. Oliver Ring, Director of Service, Mr. Vincent
Hussey A/CFO and Mr. Tom Brosnan, Civil Defence Officer. Mr. Ring and
Mr. Brosnan also met the 9 volunteers in Castlegregory on 25th January, 2011 to
consider future options.
Castlegregory Fire Squad was established circa 1983 and operates from a small
fire house in Castlegregory. This building is owned by Kerry County Council and
all charges on the property are borne by Kerry County Council.
The Fire Squad consists of 8 or 9 volunteers from the local community. They
have been provided with a limited amount of training by the Fire Personnel of
Kerry County Council. This training would amount to 40-50 hours training per
annum which is less than half that provided to either the Civil Defence members
or the retained fire fighters in the Kerry Fire Service. The result is that Squad is
not trained to the levels required by modern standards to enable them to take on,
with confidence and safety, the fire fighting role they aspire to.
As a volunteer squad, they are not part of the Kerry Fire Service command
structure and, in fact, are not accountable to any organisation. They can
mobilise themselves to any incident as they see fit. While they are not part of
the 999 emergency call-out system, I understand that there have been cases
where they mobilised themselves to respond to 999 type calls including house
fires and commercial type fires.
There are serious issues here in relation to Health & Safety and responsibility in
the context of current Health & Safety legislation. As a volunteer unit, they do not
have the requisite training to attend certain incidents. They do not report to and
they are not under the control of the Council’s Fire Section. However, it could be
claimed that the Council has some responsibility for them given the training,
equipment and some funding provided by the Council in the past. This potentially
exposes individuals in Kerry County Council to criminal prosecution in the event
of an accident involving any of these volunteers in the course of responding to
You will be no doubt aware of the consequences for certain Wicklow County
Council staff, arising from Garda and Health & Safety Authority investigations,
following the tragedy in Bray where two retained fire-fighters died while attending
a fire. These fire-fighters would have been fully trained and were operating under
a command and control operation.
It is for all these reasons that Kerry County Council has informed all the
Volunteer Fire Units that it cannot be associated with or take any responsibility
for them anymore and they have been advised that they should not mobilise for
It is clearly very desirable that the volunteerism and community spirit of the
Volunteer Units be retained for the benefit of their communities.
It has been suggested that one way to do this would be to set up a retained
brigade in Castlegregory. However this is not feasible, in present circumstances,
given the financial requirements to upgrade equipment and to pay training and
wages costs. Department funding for the capital elements would also be required
and this would not be considered in advance of the results of a forthcoming
national review of fire cover Risk Assessment. The adequacy of fire cover in the
Castlegregory/Brandon/Clahane area will form part of the Kerry review.
A number of proposals have been put to the members of the Castlegregory Unit:-
(a) That Kerry County Council would sever all links with the Unit, transfer
equipment etc. to them by legal agreement and they would continue to
operate as a private, independent unit. I understand that this option is not
acceptable to the volunteers.
(b) That the Unit would be incorporated into Civil Defence and the
volunteers would become part of the Civil Defence chain of command
Joining Civil Defence would have many advantages for the volunteers, including;
◦ They would be part of a proper command and control structure and
would be the responsibility of Kerry County Council
◦ They would receive structured quality fire training (more than double the
hours they currently train) – thirty existing C.D. members are trained to a
high standard in dealing with fires.
◦ They would be covered by insurances etc. and would have upgraded
◦ They could be trained in a variety of other roles and disciplines, including
advanced first aid, rescue, flooding control, etc.
◦ They would be part of a county wide (140 members) and country wide
organisation of like-minded volunteers who also give freely of their time in
the service of their communities. The Civil Defence offers opportunities to
take part in regional and national exercises and competitions.
I understand that the Castlegregory Volunteers are now considering the option of
joining Civil Defence and I would strongly recommend that they would do so
because they would be able to continue to serve their community with confidence
and with higher levels of skills and training.
I look forward to your support in this matter.
Is mise le meas,
T. Curran/T. Ó Curráin,
County Manager/Bainisteoir Contae