By Suzanne Pender
RECRUITMENT challenges are having a significant impact on County Carlow Fire Service, according to those working within the service.
Over the past two years, County Carlow Fire and Rescue Service has advertised three times for retained firefighters; however, the recruitment campaign yielded just one suitable candidate.
It is understood that while a number of people applied, only one passed the strict fitness test required. Along with long-term vacancies, several firefighters within the county’s stations in Carlow, Tullow, Bagenalstown and Hacketstown are currently out on long-term illness.
According to one local firefighter, these staff shortages are placing enormous pressure on existing staff.
“Firefighters are under severe mental pressure … the shortage of staff is affecting the mental wellbeing of firefighters,” stated one firefighter, who did not wish to be named.
“You’re on call 24/7 and the only time you have off is when you take holidays, so you always have to be within five minutes of the station, which causes huge mental strain,” he said.
A fourth recruitment campaign for County Carlow Fire Service began this week, with management of the service indicating that currently three vacancies within the county need to be filled – two in Carlow town and one in Tullow.
Co Carlow’s acting chief fire officer Liam Carroll said that recruitment is a national issue that is being experienced by fire services throughout the country. He stated that the position of a retained firefighter required huge commitment, both personally and to a family, while passing the fitness requirement and completing the extensive training, which takes upwards of nine months, are also considerations.
Director of services Padraig O’Gorman accepted that current staffing levels in the county’s fire service are down, which has been “exacerbated by those out on long-term sickness”.
“We have made a commitment to fill the vacancies as quickly as possible,” he said.
In 2022, County Carlow Fire Service responded to740 call-outs, described as an “unprecedented number” and a 30% increase on previous years.