An Ulster Unionist Councillor has raised concerns that the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) are not being “specific” when posed questions regarding the response times of the interim service where the number of full-time firefighters is reduced.

In a letter responding to the Council’s request for clarification as to the response times to emergency situations for full-time versus part-time fire stations, Michael Graham, Interim Chief Fire and Rescue Officer stated that their On-Call ‘on the road’ response times average six minutes and 53 seconds from the locations of Enniskillen and Omagh fire stations.

At the meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on Tuesday night (September 5) Ulster Unionist Councillor Howard Thornton queried the specificity of Mr. Graham’s response. He said: “With regard to emergencies, there has been talk of response times being reduced from 90 seconds to eight minutes, so in the letter, I had proposed, and I assume that this is what was done, was that we would request these response times and certainly the two letters that came back, all that was mentioned was an average of six minutes 53 seconds.”

He continued: “Is this average for part-time or full-time? They haven’t actually answered. They are not being specific to the question we posed.”

Councillor Thornton proposed that the Council send a letter back to the NIFRS requesting them to answer the specific question that was posed regarding response times. Councillor Blake seconded the proposal.

Councillor Thornton also highlighted how the letter from the NIFRS noted how the interim measures which include the reduction of five full-time firefighters to three in Enniskillen and Omagh fire stations have been “risk assessed against the impact on both the public and firefighter safety.”

Councillor Thornton commented that “we are like guinea pigs here,” in regard to what he believes is an “ongoing risk assessment.v“I will not be satisfied that we are being used as guinea pigs in the west of the province for the fire service,” he stated.

Cross Community Labour Alternative (CCLA) Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, Sinn Fein Councillor Glenn Campbell and SDLP Councillor Adam Gannon also raised their concern over the cuts to the fire service and it was proposed that the Council request a meeting with the NIFRS to discuss the matter further.