The Fire Service says that it is “business as usual” in Larne and that emergency cover will not be affected by the theft of an engine and damage to the local headquarters.
East Antrim UUP MLA Roy Beggs had previously raised concerns over the future of the local service, stating: “The fire station itself is now structurally damaged and there are wider concerns for public safety with the loss of a fire engine and doubts about whether the station is safe for use.”
However, an NIFRS spoksperson said that “contingency plans had been quickly put in place” following the incident, and a that a replacement fire appliance was sent to Larne Fire Station, which continues to operate with two fire engines.
However, due to the main station’s structural damage, firefighters will be forced to temporarily operate out of a different venue.
A spokesperson explained: “Due to the damage caused to the appliance bay, that section of the fire station is not structurally safe so NIFRS has temporarily relocated the fire station to a unit at Larne Harbour. The fire station has relocated, but the Larne firefighters are continuing to provide a fire and rescue service to the public.”
The NIFRS was due to meet with a structural engineer on March 7 to assess the extent of the damage to the fire station, but it is not yet clear how much it will cost to repair.
When asked whether the fire engine could be repaired or would be written off, the spokesperson said that the NIFRS was currently “assessing the damage caused to the fire appliance”.
Regarding claims by Mr Beggs that the stolen fire engine was taken as far as Ballyboley before returning to the town, the spokesperson said: “That information will form part of the investigation into the incident.”
When asked by the Times how the thieves entered the station, and whether NIFRS is reviewing its security arrangements at all stations across Northern Ireland in light of this incident, the spokesperson added: “The investigation will determine how access was gained to the station. NIFRS takes the security of its premises very seriously and the fire station was locked prior to the break-in.”