The Fire Brigades Union welcome last Friday’s intervention by local politicians from the DUP, supporting the current status of Fire Stations in North Antrim.
Local Member of Parliament Ian Paisley MP said: “Cuts to the fire service budget could drastically affect the fire cover provided in North Antrim and now is the time for the Department to manage the budget effectively.
“Ballymena, Ballycastle and Ballymoney Fire Stations are under threat and may suffer cuts to their workforces and fire engines. This would reduce the Fire Services ability to respond to emergency calls placing members of the public and firefighters lives at risk.
“In plain language, the response times of front line appliances would be increased. In Ballymena Fire Stations case the removal of whole time, (fulltime) firefighters at night, the very time when the most serious injuries and deaths occur in house fires, would increase response times when we all know that seconds save lives.
“In the case of Ballycastle and Ballymoney both stations would lose a fire appliance leaving crews isolated at calls awaiting the arrival of appliances from neighbouring towns.”
Jim Barbour, Northern Ireland leader of the Fire Brigades Union said: “We have a very serious situation where recent DHSSPS documentation identifies over 20 fire stations across Northern Ireland for down-grading or closure.
“In North Antrim, Fire Stations in Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle are at risk. Fire Stations in neighbouring constituencies are also under threat. Together this means that the public, local businesses and firefighters of North Antrim would find their livelihoods and indeed their lives at increased risk.
“We call on local politicians from across the political spectrum to join with us and the public in protecting a truly vital emergency service”.
Local FBU representative Archie McKay added: “I welcome the interest and the commitments made by the representatives of the DUP. I do not believe that any rational person who examines the proposed cuts would fail to recognise the risk to public safety should the proposed cuts go ahead. I would implore the Executive and DHSSPS to urgently reconsider these proposals.”
Responding to the news Cllr John Finlay said: “I share the concerns of my colleagues. I really do fear that cuts to the Fire service could result in fire cover being reduced. You cannot put a price on a life.
“The fire service, as all other emergency services, do a tremendous job in responding to the calls of those in need. It would be very disappointing if services were to be cut and services withdrawn.
“From my point as an elected representative I will be fighting any cuts to the local Fire service in Ballymoney. They do a tremendous job.”
North Antrim Sinn Féin Assembly candidate Daithí McKay added: “It is always a major concern that the Fire Service will be seen as an easy touch because it is located in the Health Department.
“Adequate Fire Service provision in Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle is absolutely critical given the size and rurality of North Antrim.
“Should these proposed cuts go ahead it would undoubtedly put lives at risk. What North Antrim is in dire need of are new capital build fire stations which Sinn Féin has been lobbying for this past four years. What North Antrim needs is adequate wholetime and parttime firefighters, not further cuts to a vital public service.”
Cllr Mervyn Storey has thrown his weight behind the campaign by the NI Fire Brigades Union
He added: “These proposed cuts to front line services are very worrying and totally unnecessary.
“As part of the budget arrangements it was agreed that the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit or PEDU would examine any request for additional funding from the Dept of Health and if the case was sound then other departments have already agreed for each to be top sliced in order to ensure front line services.
“Furthermore there has already existed since August 2010 an official list of 13 possible efficiencies within the Fire Authority that would not impact upon front line services. It would be hard to describe it as anything other than party political if all 13 of those officially indentified possible efficiencies were ignored in order to make swingeing cuts to front line services.
“To now impose this kind of scorched earth policy of the Fire Service would be another major mistake.”