Written Answers. - Fire Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

123 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if modern firefighting equipment, including special breathing apparatus, is available to all firefighting services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10331/00]

The provision of a fire service, including firefighting equipment, is a matter for the local fire authorities in accordance with section 10 of the Fire Services Act, 1981. My Department, however, assists fire authorities by providing capital grants towards expenditure they incur in the purchase of such equipment.

In carrying out their functions, fire authorities employ a range of specialist equipment for their firefighting and rescue roles. Front-line fire engines carry a relatively consistent set of equipment for deployment at a diverse range of incidents and this equipment is updated and expanded in accordance with developments in needs and advances in technology.

The use of self-contained breathing apparatus – BA – has been an integral part of fire brigade operations for many years enabling firefighters to carry out operations safely and effectively in toxic and irrespirable atmospheres. My Department issued draft guidelines for the use of BA in 1981 and re-issued an updated and expanded version, The Use of Breathing Apparatus in the Fire Service, in December 1995. All new firefighters are required to undergo and pass a specific two week training course in BA wearing.

In view of the fundamental importance of this equipment, my Department has provided grant aid to fire authorities to purchase BA and other special equipment over the years. The Department, generally, does not fund replacement of first generation equipment and fire authorities have replaced and updated BA sets themselves, in line with their own needs. The Department's role, at this stage, is confined to occasionally grant-aiding authorities who wish to expand the number of BA sets in use.