Full time fire fighters in Portadown station are to be reduced from five to three as a result of budget cuts, it has been claimed.
Jim Quinn of the Fire Brigades Union said appliances use five fire fighters and to cut the number of full time staff in Portadown could lead to delays in reaching a fire.
He explained that while the full time members would be in the station, they would have to wait until part timers arrived at the station before leaving.
Ulster Unionist MLA said he had an urgent phone call with Michael Graham, the Chief Fire and Rescue Officer about the news of reduction in Fire and Rescue services in the Portadown area.
He said: “This follows an email to him last week highlighting my concerns about the Portadown Fire and Rescue Service future.
“The Chief confirmed to me that the Portadown station will be reduced from five full time fire officers to three full time officers during the day only with two retained fire officers on call within the response area. The night service will not change. This is likely to take place sometime in mid-August and no firefighters will lose their jobs but may be required to work elsewhere.
“Without a doubt, this reduction of two full time officers during the day will have an impact on response times. Although appliances can be manned with 3 firefighters this is only done in extremis so no appliance will leave the station without all 5 members being present to ensure a safe system of operation and this naturally will be delayed while those responding make their way to the station.
“The chief also explained that he was also going to continue to enhance and promote prevention with those full time officers doing more visits to vulnerable people, schools and organisations to talk about fire prevention working on the clear message that ‘prevention is better that cure’.
“Of course, the Fire Brigades Union and the public will be concerned about this move and I join their concern given the increase in population, infrastructure and houses in the Portadown and Craigavon area. I will be raising the budgetary concerns with the Department of Health, which is driving the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) decision making; although it is my understanding that these changes would likely to have been made regardless given the severe gaps within the NIFRS workforce.”