Members of Westmeath County Council raised concerns over the cost of fire brigade call outs while passing a motion to continue the long-standing agreement that the former Athlone Town Council had with Roscommon County Council (as fire authorities ).
Under this agreement Athlone Fire Brigade provide services for Roscommon County Council in an adjoining portion of the county.
According to CEO of Westmeath County Council, Pat Gallagher, the arrangement has worked well from the perspective of both parties. “It has been subject to periodic review, the most recent of which was conducted over recent months. As a result of the recent merger of Athlone Town Council with Westmeath County Council, the making of a new agreement is now a matter for the county councils of Westmeath and Roscommon.”
“Under the agreement, Westmeath County Council will make its fire brigade, fire fighting equipment, and staff available for fire fighting and emergency operations in a defined area of south county Roscommon, to be provided by Athlone Fire Brigade.”
While welcoming the news, councillors also expressed concern over the cost of calling out the fire brigade for householders. Cllr Boxer Moran suggested that an information campaign was needed to make householders aware of the costs, and to make sure they check whether their home insurance covers a call out by the fire brigade.
According to Cllr Moran some households have been left with bills of up to €2,500. “We need to let the public know that when they’re renewing their home insurance they need to check that they are covered for fire brigade call-outs.
Mr Gallagher agreed, adding “Anything that can be done to remind people to check their home policy is good. Everyone must have reasonable cover. But let’s not forget that paying for the fire brigade is nothing new.”
The current fire service charges are €500 for a chimney fire and €675 per hour for other incidents. According to the fire services section of the council’s website, “It should be noted that, in general, every home insurance policy covers fire brigade charges and the normal policy excess does not apply to these specific charges.
Notwithstanding this, owners of domestic premises can appeal for a reduction in charges for fire brigade attendance for chimney or domestic premises fires, subject to the domestic premises owners meeting certain criteria.”