The provision of a fire services in local authority areas, including the establishment and maintenance of fire brigades, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the provisions of the Fire Services Act 2001. My Department supports fire authorities through the setting of general policy, provision of training support and issue of guidance on operational and other related matters and the provision of capital funding.
The provision of fire services by local authorities is based on a risk management approach which involves an analysis of the nature of the fire hazards and the incidence and extent of fires which occur as well as the fire protection measures in place. The fire services in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford are staffed on a full-time basis; Drogheda and Dundalk have a combined full-time and retained service, while fire services in all other communities are provided by the retained system, which operates on a call-out basis when required.
Earlier in 2013 I published as national policy the document Keeping Communities safe (KCS), which is intended to keep fire safety and fire services in Ireland in line with international best practice. KCS includes, inter alia, the rationalisation of structures to deliver effective fire services. This entails fire services remaining within local authorities, but service delivery is to be reshaped from the current 30 fire services to 21 – 14 single fire authorities and 7 shared services.
KCS is based on a risk management approach, which addresses the critical elements of fire prevention, protection and response. In that vein, each fire service is currently undertaking an initial risk categorisation process for its functional area. In order to provide a comprehensive and effective fire service to the community, section 26 of the Fire Services Act provides that it is a reserved function of local authorities to adopt fire and emergency operations plans indicating the provision made in respect of organisation, appliances, equipment, fire stations, training, operational procedure and any such matters as may be relevant. The risk categorisation process referred to above will help inform local decision making in this regard.