The number of firefighters in the country has been declining every year, decreasing to 29,000 in 2015 (last year with data unavailable), when ten years earlier there were almost 42,000, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE).
According to an article in the Diarios de Noticais (DN), Volunteers enter, but also many leave and there is a great turnover, stated the associations that represent them. This is despite the increase of salaried employees in humanitarian corporations, with professionals estimated to make up a third of their total.
According to the Volunteer Firefighters of Vila do Conde, which has 42 employees in a total of 100 firefighters. “It is not possible to depend on volunteer help: there are fewer and fewer volunteers” he explains. Rui Silva has two jobs – clerk and teacher – which means that he is often not available for volunteering. When he had an accident as a firefighter he lived months of the minimum wage, which is generally guaranteed by insurance. He advocates creating real incentives and not “alms” to get people to want to be firefighters (see box).
Also the National Association of Professional Firefighters (ANBP) understands that the accounts are poorly made. In fact, according to their estimates, there are 15,000 professional firefighters, almost double those indicated by the ANPC, 12,000 of whom work in the fire and municipal and professional organizations.
Fernando Curto, the chairman of the board of directors, argues that, first, “the number of professionals and volunteers should be clarified” before taking any action. He argues: “There is a false question when it comes to professional firefighters and volunteer firefighters. The Secretary of State for Home Affairs says it will not professionalize firefighters,” we do not want them to be professionalized, we want clarification. Most of the wage earners are in voluntary associations. All have professional firefighters, which are the first intervention teams. It is in these corporations that should increase the professionals and only thus they can have more human means “.
The leaders of the Portuguese Firemen’s League recognize this reality. Marta Soares, the president of the Portuguese Firemen’s League, says that humanitarian associations have salaried employees to guarantee their workforce. “Ten years ago, the number of firefighters stabilized at 30,000, they have less availability. Volunteer associations have about 8% professionals and they guarantee the functioning of the civil protection structure.” Marta Soares refers to the ANPC census. The data sent by the structure to DN indicate an increase in the number of professionals since 2012 and that will represent more than 27% of the workforce, without the Azores and Madeira. Only the INE data gives the evolution of the sector, in addition to crossing ANPC statistics with those of corporate commanders.