A SHORTAGE of firefighters and an ageing workforce in Palma has resulted in the Town Hall paying thousands of euros in overtime.
In the last three months, the cost has been reported to reach over €700,000, but the issue of overtime has caused tensions between the fire service and Town Hall for several years.
In August, an average of 176 overtime hours per day were taken at the Palma Fire Department, which totalled to 5,456 hours by the end of the month. In September, 4,410 extra hours were worked and another 2,914 in October.
During the 1980s, an ideal ratio of one firefighter per 1,000 residents was established at a European level and which was adopted by the Regional Government’s Emergencies Directorate. However, the ratio in Palma isn’t anything like this, as there are only 180 current members in the fire service.
The population in the capital in January 2018 was 440,772, meaning that the ratio is one firefighter for almost 2,500 people. In order to meet the European ideal, Palma would need 260 more firefighters.
This situation hasn’t always been like this, as twenty-five years ago, the ratio was one firefighter per 1,500 residents. This ratio was stable until 2009 but has since deteriorated due to lack of new recruits.
Between 2000 and 2011, around 70 new firefighters were taken on, but since 2012, there haven’t been any recruitment drives. This is attributed to the Spanish government’s austerity measures and the need for stability on the local authority budget.
In addition, the shift system results in an insufficient capacity for training and holidays. The ages of some members of the fire service also has meant that they have been allocated to secondary rather than frontline activities.
In response to the shortage of firefighters, 12 people from the ‘Xapa i Mecànica’ group of PalmaActiva are helping at the Fire Department workshop. Funded by the SOIB, the volunteers will carry out maintenance work on five vehicles for three weeks. The group have previously collaborated with the Local Police.