Enniskillen Fire Station will see the number of full time firefighters stationed there fall as part of interim measures introduced by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS).

Currently, Enniskillen station has five full-time firefighters but this will change to three as the fire service look at ways to manage their budget. 

However the NIFRS has dismissed the notion that this will affect the organisations operation.

“NIFRS completely rejects that these interim measures will not allow this organisation to operate within safe staffing levels and totally refutes any suggestion that we do not put the safety of the public and our firefighters first. The interim measures have been risk assessed and NIFRS will continue to provide a safe and effective service across all of Northern Ireland," said a NIFRS spokesperson.

“The introduction of these temporary measures will not only help us manage our budget in the short-term but they will help us assess any impact and inform any longer-term change. These changes have been brought about after detailed consideration and will allow NIFRS to continue to provide a safe and effective service. The stations affected will continue to have the same operational cover they currently provided at evenings and weekends. These changes are about using the resources available to us in the most efficient and effective way.

“This will mean that Enniskillen station, which is currently crewed with 5 full-time firefighters between 8am and 6pm (Monday to Friday) supported by on-call (part-time) firefighters, will change to nucleus crewing, which is 3 full-time firefighters supported by on-call firefighters. The majority of our local stations are already crewed by on-call firefighters 24/7 and they continue to deliver an exceptional service to the public.”

There has been widespread reaction to the cuts announcement with the Fire Brigades Union describing them as a "template for disaster".

Jim Quinn, FBU executive council member for Northern Ireland, said: "The plans show a shocking disregard for public safety and particularly the safety of provincial communities. Major residential areas will be left with slower response times and reduced fire cover which, frankly, is not enough to keep the public safe.

“This is not a template for the future, it's a template for disaster. It's outrageous and the FBU will not stand idly by."

Cross-Community Labour Alternative Councillor for Enniskillen, Donal O'Cofaigh said the cuts could have "tragic consequences.

"These cuts could lead to long delays in responding to fires and other emergencies, potentially with tragic consequences. Fire service management say that the reduction in cover in Enniskillen and Omagh will only be temporary, but our experience across the public service is that when cuts are made, they are rarely reversed in this age of austerity."

"The fire service faces a £3.2 million shortfall for this financial year. The budget allocated by the Department of Health simply has not reflected the rising demand on the service. Safety inspections of public buildings are being skipped just to plug the gaps. The reduction in fire cover across Northern Ireland will put lives at risk and, again, rural communities will be hit hardest."

Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton also voiced concern as to what effect the cuts will have.

“It appears that public safety is not a priority for those considering budgets and provision of emergency services in the fire service.

“The community are extremely appreciative of the role carried out by the Fire & Rescue Service, it is now clear that this provision cannot be taken for granted, it is imperative that in the interests of public safety this emergency service is properly funded and managed.

“Again it is the west of Northern Ireland that will suffer more imbalance in these swinging cuts, with western towns of Enniskillen and Omagh as well as Co. Armagh towns of Portadown and Armagh all being reported as planned for a serious negative impact.”