UNNECESSARY call outs, like tackling gorse fires, are putting fire fighters at a greater risk of Covid-19, Donegal’s Chief Fire Officer Joseph McTaggart has warned this week. There have been a number of gorse fires in the county over the last few weeks and the latest was on Monday evening in Gaoth Dobhair.
The fire service received a call at 5.10pm and responded to the fire at Meenamillar, arriving at the scene at 5.25pm. It was just under two hours later when they got the blaze under control.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week Mr Taggart said unfortunately this was not the only gorse fire they attended over the last number of days. He appealed to the public not to disregard matches, cigarette ends, not to light fires outside or dispose of ashes in an effort to reduce the number of avoidable call outs.
He said: “We have to bear in mind that we have the added complication right now of Covid 19. What we want is to minimise the impact on the fire brigade and minimise unnecessary callouts so that we are fully operational to respond to incidents involving saving lives. We have stopped all training nationally and locally. We have stopped visits of members of the public to stations and stopped all other unnecessary visits to the station. But we still have to maintain the equipment and our vehicles.”
Donegal Fire Service management have also been dispersed to different stations around the county in the event there is an outbreak among members. However they cannot do this with fire fighters as they have to live and work within their areas in order to mobilise.
“What we want to do is minimise the amount of time fire fighters are together and that is why we are trying to reduce unnecessary call outs and wild fires, by in large, are avoidable.”
Mr Taggart said because of how quickly wild fires spread they may have to bring a number of brigades together to fight the blaze which brings an additional risk of contracting the virus.
“It is like any group of people coming together there is a risk of the virus being spread and we want to ensure that the service is ready to respond to life at risk incidents. Life is the most important risk. You can always recover property but you cannot recover life.”
The public have also been reminded that under the wildlife act they are not permitted to burn vegetation during this time. If members of the public see a gorse fire they should contact 999 or 112.”
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Posted: 11:36 am April 23, 2020