With Enniskillen Fire Station cutting the number of full time firefighters on duty at the station in recent months due to budget pressures within the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), there has been criticism and worry that the changes could impact on response times to emergencies.

Before the cuts, the station would have been manned from Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm by five full time firefighters with on-call personnel covering evenings and weekends. With the new structure, on-call firefighters will be required to support three full time firefighters.

A Freedom of Information request by this paper has revealed that in a 12 month period from September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019 there have been 19 occasions when the first appliance had been mobilised from Enniskillen fire station but there had been insufficient crewing to mobilise a second appliance.

Although on only three of these occasions was a second appliance required, it is worrying that the main station in Fermanagh was unable to crew a second appliance. The NIFRS states the reason for fire appliances having insufficient crewing levels are due to on-call firefighters at their primary employment, off due to sickness, off duty and unavailability due to training and other commitments. Also during the 12 month period, there were three occasions when NIFRS were unable to provide a response from Enniskillen Fire Station.

Reasons for the non-mobilisation of an appliance were the first appliance off station providing a response to another incident; only minimum crew available and an on-call firefighter had an accident while responding to stations which resulted in insufficient crewing numbers to mobilise appliance and insufficient number of on-call firefighters available to mobilise appliances.

The normal crewing levels for appliances within NIFRS is five on the first appliance and four personnel on the second appliance. However appliances may be crewed with a maximum of six personnel or a minimum of four depending on the type of response required and the number of personnel available.

The request showed that in the 12 month period there were between 16 and 18 on call firefighters employed.

On-call firefighters at Enniskillen firefighters must provide a minimum of 84 contracted hours per week with the average contracted availability is 121.9 hours within the station. However, the actual response hours, which are the times provided that personnel are available to crew a fire appliance is 88.27 hours.

All new contracts issued within the last year at Enniskillen Fire Station have a minimum requirement of 100 hours.