Seanad Éireann - Volume 142 - 04 April, 1995
Adjournment Matters. - Donegal Fire Stations.
Mr. Maloney Mr. Maloney
Mr. Maloney: This matter on the Adjournment relates to the fire service in Donegal which is operated by Donegal County Council. At present there are three problem areas which I shall list in order of priority as outlined by Donegal County Council to the Department of the Environment. The first priority case is Milford; the second is Buncrana and the third relates to the regional headquarters planned for Letterkenny.
At this stage, Milford appears to be a major problem and, as it stands, is a disaster just waiting to happen. The Milford fire station covers two peninsulas, Fanad and Rosguill. In addition to Milford, there are two major population centres in this area, Rathmelton and Rathmullen. Approximately 20,000-30,000 people live in this area and a large number of tourists visit it.
The station in Milford dealt with over 50 emergency calls last year. It is operated by voluntary staff and the tender is housed in an old bread van shed at present. The problem in Milford is that there is no fire station as such and the staff operate from an old shed which, unfortunately, is located at the back entrances to two pubs and at the front entrances to three pubs.
 One can gather from this that parking in Milford is a problem. If there is an event on in the town, there is a crazy position of cars being parked outside and behind the fire station. A car recently had to be lifted to allow the fire tender out to attend a fire. There are no toilet facilities in this so-called fire station and there is no water supply inside it. There is one tap outside for cleaning equipment, but the only water inside is that in the tender.
Buncrana is the second largest town in County Donegal. It is home to the Fruit of the Loom textile company, which currently has plans with the Department and is awaiting design approval. In addition to Fruit of the Loom, the Clubman Omega shirt factory is located there. It is a major industrial town and a major holiday resort. Given these facts a disaster is waiting to happen there.
The station is manned by volunteers who work under extremely harsh conditions. They live in dread of a major fire in the town. Their appliances are completely inadequate for what might be required. Buncrana is the gateway to the Inishowen Peninsula and it is an area with a very high population. If anything goes wrong, the fire station and staff are not properly equipped to cope.
A new headquarters in Letterkenny has been planned for some time. The first design submitted was considered too expensive. It was returned and a new design, which would be less costly, was requested. The fire station in Letterkenny is now located in a built up area. When it was first built, this was not a problem but it is now in the centre of the town rather than on the outskirts and problems are caused by cars being parked in the vicinity.
The station is located between the employment exchange, the county museum and directly across the road from it is one of the major pubs in the town. On a regular basis it is not surprising to see the station's entrances at the  front and side blocked by cars. There is a major problem in Letterkenny and something must be done about it. The new headquarters must be built.
I ask the Minister to find money in 1995 to deal with these matters. I emphasise the urgency of the situation in Milford; the situation is extremely dangerous. It is not right that in 1995 we should sit back and wait for a disaster to happen and for lives to be lost because money has not been put into the fire services in County Donegal. This money is urgently required and I ask the Minister to give this matter urgent consideration.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus) Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus)
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus): I am pleased to have this opportunity to advise the Senator and the House of the position concerning the three fire stations about which Donegal County Council has been in contact with my Department.
The Milford proposal is the most advanced. Contract documentation prepared by the county council is currently with my Department. The question of issuing approval to invite tenders for the scheme is being considered in the light of the various demands on the capital allocation of £4.5 million available for the fire service in 1995. A decision will be made as soon as possible.
In the case of the proposals for new fire stations in Buncrana and Letterkenny, my Department's information is that Donegal County Council is developing proposals for both schemes to conform with the price limits for fire station projects of the size and type appropriate to these locations. When detailed proposals are forwarded by the council they will be examined in my Department in the usual way. However, it is unlikely that the question of providing funding for the schemes will arise in 1995.
 The Government values very highly the work of the fire service and it is fully aware of the importance of providing up-to-date facilities, equipment and training. Since 1981, £76.5 million has been invested in the provision of 80 new fire stations, the purchase of over 270 new fire appliances and other fire fighting equipment and the development of a new regional computer-based mobilisation and call-out system.
In addition, the fire services council has provided 145 training courses, at home and abroad, for a total of approximately 2,700 participants in the last 11 years. The benefits of this investment have been well spread throughout the country. In the case of County Donegal, 17 new fire appliances have been bought during the period, at a total cost of £1.8 million. I assure the House that the council's proposal for a new fire station at Milford will receive full and careful consideration in the allocation of the fire service capital provision for 1995.
Seanad Éireann 142 Adjournment Matters. Donegal Fire Stations.