Northern Ireland fire chiefs defend team change
Fire Service chiefs have defended changes to the staffing of a team which tackles high-rise blazes in Londonderry.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that its board had agreed to alter the crewing model of the aerial ladder platform based at Northland station.
But she denied union claims that the move would put lives at risk, saying that the proposal had been "risk assessed against the impact on public and firefighter safety".
The NIFRS said it was one of a number of cost saving options developed to address a "challenging" budget for 2017/18.
The spokesperson said: "All the savings options considered have been risk assessed against the impact on both public and firefighter safety."
The Fire Brigades Union slammed decision. Jim Quinn said: "If an ALP is needed urgently to perform a high-rise rescue and the formerly dedicated crew are responding to another emergency on a different fire engine, then clearly the high-rise rescue is going to de delayed."
But the NIFRS spokesperson said: "This change brings it in line with the current crewing arrangements for the other ALPs at Springfield and Knock Stations.
"Following an extensive consultation exercise in 2015 it was determined that ALPs should be 'alternatively crewed' rather than continue to be crewed by a dedicated team.
"The Specialist Appliance at Crescent Link Station will continue to be crewed by four personnel.
"However, it was agreed that in the event that firefighters are required at another location, up to two personnel from the specialist appliance may be released.
"These two low risk options have been agreed in order to ensure the effective and efficient use of NIFRS resources whilst at the same time maintaining public and firefighter safety and are effective from November 1."
She added: "NIFRS is confident in its robust and evidence based analysis of these saving proposals.
"NIFRS has and will continue to consult with representative bodies, staff and other stakeholders."