Manpower shortages drive firefighters to close W. Bank stations

Manpower shortages drive

Local fire department heads have decided to close four fire stations in Judea and Samaria, as a result of what they say is a "glaring lack of manpower." The closures will go into effect on Thursday and will include the stations in the Binyamina district, Karnei Shomron, Gush Etzion, and the Jordan Valley, in addition to a number of stations outside of the West Bank. A firefighters' spokesman told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that the decision to close the West Bank stations, in addition to other poorly-manned stations in Israel, had been made by the head of the national firefighters' union since the stations were only manned by a single firefighter and were incapable of performing their duties. Jackie Benyamini, a firefighter and spokesman for the firefighters union in Judea and Samaria, said that firefighters in the West Bank and other isolated areas were working under conditions that simply do not allow them to perform their jobs. "It doesn't matter if the fireman is Rambo, he can't do everything alone," he said. Benyamini added that the firefighters weren't seeking pay increases or choicer benefits; rather, "we only want more manpower so we can serve the public." Firefighters say the closures will severely affect arrival times, with some saying it could reach between a half hour and 45 minutes. Head of security for the Judea and Samaria regional council Shlomo Vatkin told the Post Thursday the closures would have a serious effect in the West Bank because so many of the buildings in Jewish settlements were non-permanent structures like caravans. Vatkin said that with much longer arrival times for first responders, the combination of such sensitive structures and delayed response times "could be very grave." "You have to keep in mind that these changes can hurt anyone traveling or living in this area, including Palestinians," Vatkin said.