Af­ter breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus failed yet again, fire­fight­ers in Dun­dalk say: We MUST be given gear that’s up to stan­dard. Un­til then, lo­cal lives are at risk


The Argus - - FRONT PAGE - Ex­clu­sive story by Anne Camp­bell

FIRE­FIGHT­ERS in Louth have ‘ lost con­fi­dence’ in the breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus (BA) they are sup­plied with af­ter one failed while a fire­man was in­side a burn­ing build­ing re­cently, the Ar­gus can re­veal.

And the sit­u­a­tion is so se­ri­ous that fire­fight­ers in­di­cated at the week­end they would con­sider in­dus­trial ac­tion if the coun­cil fails to deal with this health and safety is­sue head-on.

A source has given de­tails to the Ar­gus of the BA fail­ure, which hap­pened on Novem­ber 16 while fire­fight­ers from Dun­dalk sta­tion were re­spond­ing to a call to a house fire in the town. The source said: ‘ The BA set worn by one of the fire­fight­ers who was in the build­ing failed re­sult­ing in the fire­fighter los­ing his air sup­ply.

‘ This is a very se­ri­ous is­sue and thank­fully on the day in ques­tion the fire­fighter was only a short dis­tance in­side the house and was able to make a hasty re­treat out to open air and re­move his face­mask in or­der to breathe again.

‘Had the pen­e­tra­tion into the build­ing by the BA team had been any deeper, this could have re­sulted in se­ri­ous in­jury or death as the BA set is a life-sup­port­ing piece of equip­ment that fire­fight­ers must have 100% con­fi­dence in so that they can en­ter a burn­ing build­ing or toxic at­mos­phere and be as­sured that they will have a sup­ply of fresh air’.

And this was not, ac­cord­ing to the source, an iso­lated in­ci­dent. ‘A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion hap­pened ear­lier in 2016 dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise at Dun­dalk fire sta­tion when an­other fire­fighter’s set failed in the same man­ner, but thank­fully, the train­ing was con­ducted in a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment so no in­jury was sus­tained on that oc­ca­sion’.

In the wake of these in­ci­dents, ‘ the sit­u­a­tion in fire sta­tions across Louth is that fire­fight­ers have lost con­fi­dence in the BA sets used in Louth and in many sta­tions around the coun­try’.

It is un­der­stood that the prob­lem cen­tres on the fail­ure of a con­nec­tion on the house sup­ply­ing the air to the face­mask and it comes apart when the set was in use.

Louth County Coun­cil is aware of the prob­lem, the Ar­gus can con­firm, though when asked for a re­sponse to the al­le­ga­tions made by the source, the coun­cil stated: ‘ This mat­ter is cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and there­fore Louth County Coun­cil will be mak­ing no com­ment at this time’.

The Health and Safety Au­thor­ity said that while they are not car­ry­ing out an in­ves­ti­ga­tion they ‘ have en­gaged with Louth County Coun­cil Fire and Res­cue Ser­vices in re­la­tion to oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health is­sues and can­not make any fur­ther com­ment at this stage’.

The source said that fire­fight­ers are fear­ful ‘ that if such a fail­ure were to hap­pen again, we might not be so lucky with the out­come . . . each time a fire­fighter puts on a BA to go into a burn­ing build­ing, the ques­tion is in the back of their minds: ‘will my set fail this time?’

The source added that per­son­nel are con­cerned about the length of time the coun­cil is tak­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the prob­lem. ‘Fire­fight­ers want this most se­ri­ous is­sue re­solved so that they can once again have con­fi­dence in this piece of equip­ment that they rely on so much in or­der to per­form their duty of care to the gen­eral pub­lic’.

In ad­di­tion, fire per­son­nel had been as­sured that the BA would be sent to the UK for ‘ in­de­pen­dent test­ing’ but as of last week, this had not been done, the source al­leged.

The source added: ‘ A large num­ber of fire­fight­ers at­tended the meet­ing on Satur­day de­spite the meet­ing be­ing called at short no­tice. There were quite a num­ber present at the meet­ing who voiced their dis­con­tent with the lack of ac­tion and lack of in­for­ma­tion avail­able from Louth County Coun­cil.

‘ The meet­ing con­cluded with a vote been taken for some form of in­dus­trial ac­tion to be taken by fire­fight­ers if there was no ac­tion seen to be taken by Louth County Coun­cil’.

A file photograph of a fire­fighter wear­ing a breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus.

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