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.”
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.