Volunteer firefighters’ time to be capped?
There’s a European directive to limit the working time of volunteer firefighters. The Hauts-Cantons in Hérault are fighting this change, as it will call into question the whole relief system in rural areas.
For example in Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, there is only one professional firefighter, and 40 volunteers. The volunteers have day jobs, but they can be called on at any time. Two days ago, the team intervened to rescue an elderly person in a car accident. In all 12 volunteer firefighters and four rescue vehicles were involved. There are on average two to three callouts per day in St Pons.
Without the help of volunteer firefighters in rural areas, the emergency system could be seriously put at risk. The European directive aims to invoke a required rest of at leat 11 consecutive hours after a call out. Many rural areas are calling for a boycott of the measure.
The departments are in the front line and they are fighting against a potential cost that could be prohibitive: “We have 700 professional firefighters for 4,000 volunteers in the department. It would cost us another 25 million euros, it’s just not possible” according to Kléber Mesquida, president of the Hérault Conseil.
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