The shortage and ageing nature of firefighters in Palma have been issues for several years and have caused tensions between the fire service and the town hall.
Back in the 1980s, an ideal ratio of one firefighter per 1,000 residents was established at European level and adopted by the regional government's emergencies directorate. The ratio in Palma isn't anything like this. There are 180 members of the fire service. The population, as of the start of January 2018, was 440,772, to which has to be added the floating population. The ratio is therefore one firefighter for almost 2,500 people (minimum). In order to meet the European ideal, Palma would need 260 more firefighters.
Because of the shortage, there is a great deal of overtime, which is why a working week of 40 hours is only theoretical. In August, 5,456 extra hours were worked in all. In September there were 4,410 extra hours; the October figure was 2,914. Over the course of three months, therefore, there were almost 13,000 overtime hours, and these cost the town hall 700,000 euros.
This situation hasn't always existed. Twenty-five years ago, the ratio was one firefighter per 1,500 residents. This ratio was stable until 2009. Since then, it has deteriorated, and this is due to lack of recruitment. Between 2000 and 2011, around seventy new firefighters were taken on. Since 2012, there haven't been any recruitment drives, the principal reason having been Spanish government austerity measures and the need for local authority budgetary stability.
The shift system is such that, because of the shortage, there is insufficient capacity for training and time off. The ages of some members of the fire service means that they are now allocated to secondary rather than frontline activities.
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