Silves firefighting department is in so much debt that services are “seriously at risk”.
President of the ABVS (firefighters association) Hilário Mestre has revealed that Alcantarilha fire station may soon have to close down at nights and weekends, as there simply isn’t the manpower or wherewithal to keep it running.
““We lack firefighters, we struggled to pay salaries in March … we’re honestly at financial breaking point,” he told us.
Mestre fears there soon will be no money to pay firemen or even fill fire engines up with fuel.
Registering losses of around €10,000 a month, the situation is so bad that Mestre admits he doesn’t know how much longer the department can carry on.
Alcantarilha station for example is over €140,000 in debt.
The general financial meltdown began when one of the department’s main sources of income was “suddenly cut off”, he explained.
“We used to transport ‘non-urgent’ patients for the Algarve’s hospitals, but when they hired another company to do most of the work, our income dropped drastically,” he told us.
In May 2013, for example, the transportation of patients earned them over €13,000. In the same month the following year, the sum had dropped to little over €900.
“It comes to around €12,000 less we receive every month,” he said. “It used to be a huge source of income for us, and now it is practically gone.”
While the department continues to receive donations, Mestre says the problem cannot be solved with charity alone.
“The times when we would go knocking on doors selling raffle tickets have passed. We still do it, but the amount of money we need can’t be raised from these kinds of activities.”
And while funds attributed to fire departments might increase 12% with a new law that is being prepared by the government (lei do financiamento dos bombeiros), it will still fall short of financial rescue for Silves.
“We’d need at least double what we receive now to remain a sustainable entity,” he told us.
Paulo Sá, Algarve MP for the Communist Party (PCP), has already met with the ABVS and questioned the government about whether or not it is planning to increase Silves fire department’s funding.
For now, there are no answers.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]