THE County Council has been accused of playing ‘fast and loose with the lives of people’ by not replacing fire-fighting water tankers in Bantry and Bandon.
A local councillor claims the nearest ones are in Mallow in North Cork and Midleton in East Cork.
At a meeting of the Western Committee of Cork County Council, Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said there is an urgent need to replace the two ‘broken down’ water tankers which are used to replenish supplies in tenders at the scene of a blaze.
He said the Bandon water tanker has been off the road for a few years, but the Bantry tanker was only put off the road in February.
Cllr Collins said: ‘It is a sad state of affairs that we don’t have a decent water tanker in West Cork and that the nearest available tankers are located in Mallow and Midleton.
‘The use of water tankers is very important in fighting fires because it can carry 2,000 gallons of water and essentially offers back-up when it comes to fighting major fires.’
He said there have been many instances where the fire brigade is called out to remote locations where there are no fire hydrants in the vicinity.
‘This is where the water tanker comes into play because the fire brigade only carries 400 gallons and the tanker is needed to replenish that supply.’
During a recent fire at a farm, Cllr Collins said five fire tenders were tasked to deal with the blaze but less could have been tasked if there had been a water tanker as back-up.
‘This has got to be a health and safety issue,’ said Cllr Collins, ‘because if there had been a fire somewhere else these tenders were tied up. It is just not good enough.’
Cllr Collins told Council officials that West Cork needs not one but two new water tankers – one for Bantry and one for Bandon. ‘We have four fire divisions in the county and it’s hard to believe there are only two tankers left: one in North Cork and the other in East Cork.
In reply, the Council’s chief fire officer, Seamus Coughlan said the purchase of fire appliances is grant-aided by government, and that a regional working group has been established in the Cork and Kerry region to review the current deployment and use of special appliances, including water tankers.
He said this work, once completed, will ‘inform and support’ the Council’s claim to the department for grant-aid funding.
In the meantime – given the strategic significance of Bantry and Bandon in terms of location – Mr Coughlan said: ‘Cork County Council Fire Department is actively trying to source suitable pre-used water tankers as interim replacements for broken-down water tankers in these towns.’
However, Mr Coughlan did concede that suitable pre-used appliances are not currently available to buy. And the only contingency is that there is a second fire appliance in all of the stations in West Cork, except for Dunmanway.