Councils as Fire Authorities
Each County Council is fire authority for its area. Former Town Councils, which had been Urban District Councils, had been fire authorities for their areas, prior to absorption into Count Councils in 2015. The Fire Safety Act confers a broad range of responsibilities and functions on fire authorities. Fire authorities may avail of each other’s services by agreement. The Minister may require agreements to be made by authorities for the joint and mutual provision of services.
In undertaking its functions, the fire authority must regard to the nature and extent of the fire hazards, and risks within their areas. It must consider the character of the area and the value of the property liable to be damaged by fire.
Each fire authority must maintain a fire brigade either by itself or in conjunction with another authority. Fire brigades have the same powers and functions outside of their area, that have within their functional area. Fire authorities may require communication providers to ensure that there are adequate means for the public to communicate with the fire authority in an emergency.
Fire authorities are also responsible for the licensing of dangerous substances and petroleum. They have responsibilities under explosives legislation. They perform functions under health safety and welfare at work legislation. They provide advice to the planning authority in relation to fire matters. They act in the administration and enforcement of building control regulations, in so far as they relate to fire safety in buildings
Fire Authorities and Directorate
Fire authorities may establish training services for their personnel. They may provide courses of instruction for their own personnel and others in relation persons with firefighting techniques, fire drill procedure, fire safety and similar matters. The Department of Local Government and the Environment may assist fire authorities in their functions, and contribute towards its cost and expenses..
The Fire Services Council (now the Fire Services Directorate) provides services for the Department and for fire authorities as may be specified. This includes assistance in the preparation of guidelines, codes of practice, standards and regulations relating to fire safety, and investigations into a fire and other emergency operations.
The Directorate has powers to carry out investigations. They may enter and inspect land and premises. They may by notice require documents and information and require a person to give evidence under oath. It is an offence to obstruct or refuse to cooperate with the Council (now the Directorate).
Fire Brigade Organisation
Where one or more fire brigades are present at a fire occurring in the functional area of a fire authority, sole charge and control of all operations for extinguishing the fire shall be vested as follows
- if the fire authority maintains a fire brigade and that fire brigade is present at the fire—in the person who is for the time being in charge of that fire brigade at the fire;
- if the fire authority does not maintain a fire brigade but has made an agreement with a fire authority for the performance of its fire-fighting functions and the brigade of that fire authority is present at the fire—in the person who is for the time being in charge of that fire brigade at the fire;
- in any other case—in the person who is for the time being in charge of the fire brigade of a fire authority which first arrives at the fire.
Fire authorities may by agreement provide, notwithstanding the above for the vesting of sole charge and control of all operations for extinguishing a fire in any person who is for the time being in charge of a fire brigade at a fire and for the transfer of such charge and control from one person to another.
Whenever and so long as no fire brigade of a fire authority is present at a fire, the senior member of the Garda Síochána present at the fire shall have sole charge and control of all operations for extinguishing the fire.
Control of a Fire
The person in control at a fire or other emergency may, either personally or by a member of a fire brigade present at the incident or by a member of the Garda Síochána, or by such other person as he authorises, do (if necessary, by force) all such things as are, in his opinion, necessary or expedient for the purpose of extinguishing the fire or for protecting or rescuing persons or property. This may include
- entry on any land or building in which there is a reason to believe fire has broken out or the emergency exists or any other land or building;
- causing any land or building to be vacated by the occupants;
- pulling down or demolishing any building or part of a building;
- using any water supply, whether public or private;
- taking water from any watercourse, lake, pond or other source, whether natural or artificial; or
- removing anything from the vicinity of the fire or other emergency.
The person in control at a fire or other emergency may require that any available water supply be controlled from the main pipes in any way that he directs in order to give a greater supply and pressure of water. He may, if he considers it necessary for the protection of other property, cause water or other extinguishing agent to be directed against that property.
No action shall lie against a fire authority, the person in control at the fire or other emergency or any person acting under his powers under this subsection.
Any person who wilfully obstructs or impedes the exercise by the person in control at a fire or other emergency or by any person under his authority or by any member of the Garda Síochána of the powers conferred on that person or member shall be guilty of an offence.
Various Fire Issues
Where damage to any property is caused by the exercise of the above powers, the damage shall, for all purposes and in particular for the purpose of any contract of insurance, be deemed to have been caused by the fire or emergency. Any clause or condition inserted in a contract of insurance purporting to exclude or having the effect of excluding the risk of damage caused by the exercise of a power conferred by this section shall be void where the risk of damage caused directly by the fire or emergency in relation to which the power is exercised would be covered by the contract.
The functions of a water authority for the provision of a supply of water shall extend to the supply of water for fire-fighting purposes and the provision and maintenance of fire hydrants at such places as the fire authority requires. Where a fire authority represents to a water authority that reasonable provision has not been made for a supply of water for fire-fighting purposes, the sanitary authority shall consult with the fire authority as to the measures required and shall take such measures as may be agreed.
Every person who knowingly gives or causes to be given a false alarm (whether by means of a street fire alarm, a telephone communication, a direct statement, a message or otherwise) to a fire brigade maintained by a fire authority shall be guilty of an offence.
Any person who interferes with, damages or obstructs a fire hydrant or any apparatus for drawing water from a main for the purpose of fire-fighting otherwise than in connection with operations of a fire brigade or for any purpose authorised by the sanitary authority is guilty of an offence.