Putting out fires in Donegal


Joseph Mc Taggart

Acting Chief Fire Officer for Donegal Joseph Mc Taggart, talks about life in the Fire Service and the dangers of gorse fire season.

“I joined the Fire Service in 1986, my job as Chief Fire Officer varies from day to day, with no two days being the same. I can be involved in activities ranging from dealing with incidents to the overall management and running of the fire service.

“I can’t come in, in each morning with the intention of  having a planned day as it may not work out like that, my main responsibility is ensuring that the brigades are operationally ready to respond to incidents and that the public safety measures implemented by the fire prevention section of the fire service are effected. That means ensuring that fire service personnel are provided with equipment, training and other resources necessary to respond to incidents and that the fire prevention section is in position to discharge its many and varied functions”

Joseph talks about the best and worst parts of the job, and how contrary to popular belief Halloween may not always be the fire services busiest time of the year.

“The most difficult part of my job is when you see lives lost in fires, in road traffic collisions or in other incidents and when  people’s homes and property are destroyed by fire. Those are the worst parts of the job, and the best parts of the job are the times that the fire service can make a difference to the public by saving lives and property.”


A Gorse fire in Donegal

Last year within a two week period from the end of March to early to mid April the fire service attended 153 gorse fires and 8 forest fires, Joseph explains that this is often one of the fire services busiest times of the year.

“The busiest time of the year for the fire service can vary, the fire service would have what is called a gorse fire season. Depending on weather and growth conditions the gorse fire season can start around early to late January and last to April or May. The season depends very much on the weather conditions, for example if there is a long spell of frost and low growth then the undergrowth may be very dry and will burn easily.

“The majority of gorse fires are caused by people carrying out activities such as burning, discarding lit cigarettes and similar activities. Gorse and forest fires once lit can be very difficult to extinguish and can spread rapidly putting people’s lives, homes and other property at risk. I can’t stress enough how easy it is to cause a fire, even something as simple as discarding a cigarette butt can cause a major fire,” said Joseph.

Remember fire fighting is a high risk occupation; don’t put yourself at risk, if you come across a fire dial 999 or 112 and request the fire service.

Fire Safety tips and facts

Make sure you have an evacuation plan and that you practice what is in the plan. It may save your life and that of your family.

Have at least one smoke alarm on each storey in your home.

A routine “fire safety check” only takes a few minutes and could mean the difference between life and death.

All escape routes should be kept clear.

Ensure that your door keys are readily accessible. In the event of a fire you will not have time to search for them

In a fire, time is critical. Don’t waste time getting dressed, don’t search for pets or valuables. Get out and stay out.

Call the fire brigade by dialing 999 or 112.

On average 46 people die each year in fires in Ireland.

There are approximately 150 fire-fighters in the fire service in Donegal and the brigades attended 867 incidents in 2012 that include 533 fires and 135 road traffic collisions. Many of these incidents would have required the attendance of more than one brigade.


Rory Gallagher talks about the life of a librarian in Donegal

Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher

Libraries continue to thrive with over 335,000 library visits in Donegal last year

Donegal County Council assistant librarian and a native from Sligo, Rory Gallagher explains the ins and outs of his job and how in his opinion no amount of technology will replace a good old fashioned book.

“I’m the Assistant Librarian for three libraries in South Donegal these include Bundoran community library, Ballyshannon branch library and DonegalTown branch library. I joined Donegal County Council in September 2001. So that was twelve and a half years ago, that’s unbelievable, he laughed.

Tinfoil sculpture outside picture

Tinfoil sculpture outside picture

“My everyday job does include issuing and returning books to the library, but as a librarian my work also gives me the opportunity to work researching local history, organising events, supporting community groups and local businesses and helping people use computers and genealogical resources.

“I think that traditionally the library’s image as a place of books might lead you into thinking we are under threat from new technologies like e-books or online information sources, but in fact the opposite is true.

“Books are just the means to distribute what we really provide in the library service, and that is Information. New technologies such as kindle and Google books expand the ways we make, use and distribute information. As people change the way that they use information the library of the future will reflect this.

“There is a quote from author Neil Giaman that illustrates the importance of libraries in the 21st century, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one”

Rory says the library is a place for everyone, young and old a like to get lost in the adventure of reading.

Engrossed in a good book

Engrossed in a good book

“Every demographic group is represented in our library users. We try hard to identify the needs of our users and tailor the library to suit them. If you visit the library on any day of the week you‘ll find people from every age group and walk of life enjoying some aspect of the services we provide.

“Parents and toddlers come to Rhymetime every Friday at 11am, Children can come and enjoy author and literacy events or research school projects on our computers. Teenagers use the library as a quiet study location and to socialise. Tourists use the library as a resource for staying in touch with home and for local information. For adults we are a source of any type of information that they may require be it official forms, health information, educational support, business and employment resources, internet or printer access. And last but not least free lending of books for all.”

Chess Competition

Chess competition

Rory says that the amount of people visiting the library is astonishing.

“Statistically speaking participation in the library has never been higher we had over 335,000 visitors to the library in 2013 and they borrowed 344,000 items.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the demand for library services will only increase as our communities and economy become more reliant on quick and open access to quality information.”

Highlighting the issue of getting people back into reading the old fashioned way Rory says it’s been a concern of every new generation.

“Recently a librarian in Bundoran was researching local newspapers from the 1950’s on microfilm, and found an interesting article discussing the problems of getting young people to read more and away from the distractions of modern music, these days its social media sites but the principle is the same.

“I think that our libraries need to remain relevant to the needs of the community and the challenge is to support our fast paced and diverse modern community by investing in new technologies and services. If we do that then people will naturally come to us. It’s not about Facebook it’s about real books, laughed Rory.”

Side Bar

  • Bundoran Library has a full size Pteranodon (Flying Dinosaur) skeleton suspended from the ceiling.
  • If you wanted to borrow every book, CD and DVD in the Donegal libraries you would need a book shelf over 5 kilometers long.
  • March is Fines Amnesty Month in the library, If you’re worried about any books that you have borrowed and are ovedue just return them during the month of March and we’ll cancel any fines, So now there’s no excuse to come visit us.
  • Bundoran Library – 071 9829665
  • Ballyshannon library-  071  9858824
  • DonegalTown Library – 074 9725329
  • For more info on Donegal Libraries visit www.donegallibrary.ie or follow us on Facebook or on Twitter @donegallibrary