Wallonia ‘lacks 1,000 firemen’
15 November 2004
BRUSSELS – Wallonia needs almost 1,000 extra firemen, a green politician told the media on Monday.
Jean-Marc Nollet (Ecolo) said out of 85 fire services in the south of Belgium, 49 of them didn’t even have the legal minimum of professional firefighters.
“Furthermore, there are eight services that can’t even count on a single professional fireperson, not even the head of the station,” he added.
That meant that volunteer firefighters were left to shoulder the responsibility for attending emergencies, which could result in delays to their response times.
Nollet’s figures come from a confidential document, which he unearthed after Interior Minister Patrick Dewael refused to give him figures on the service.
He questioned the minister after the Ghislenghien gas explosion in July, which left a total of 23 people dead.
Nollet said the figures were confirmed by personal visits to fire stations.
The shortage could be even worse than Nollet’s figures suggest since the legal minimum numbers of firefighters needed at individual stations was set 35 years ago.
A commission is due to report next September on the actual risks, which now exist, which could mean even more firefighters are needed.
Nollet urged the government not to wait for the September report before acting. He accused the Interior Minister of not being open about the “disastrous” state of the fire service and, three months after Ghislenghien, he questioned whether the government was committed to improving the situation.
The state of each fire service can be seen at www.nollet.info
The poor state of the fire service is all the more worrying given newspaper reports that there have been a high number of carbon monoxide poisonings – cases which are dealt with by firefighters.
On Sunday evening, at about 6.30pm in Binche, a 17-year-old man was taken to Tivoli hospital after suspected poisoning from a water boiler.
In the afternoon, seven people were poisoned at Alleur and Liege because of a faulty water boiler.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news