Bray firefighters were told to fight blaze from doorway, inquest hears

Officer describes frustration with fire management over staffing levels

The aftermath of the fire in Bray, Co Wicklow, in which  firefighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaugnessy died in September 2007. Photograph: Kate Geraghty.

The aftermath of the fire in Bray, Co Wicklow, in which firefighters Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaugnessy died in September 2007. Photograph: Kate Geraghty.

Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 01:00


The inquest into the deaths of two firefighters in Bray, Co Wicklow, in 2007

heard yesterday that the station officer on duty at the fire ordered them to fight the blaze from a point just inside the building.

In the event, their bodies were discovered six or seven metres inside the burned-out structure.

Jim Maguire, who was the officer in command of the first tender to reach the fire at Adelaide Terrace on September 26th, 2007, was questioned by Luán Ó Braonáin, SC, counsel for the fire authority, Wicklow Co Council.

The off-street entrance to the building, a corner doorway, opened into a small interior lobby, a further opening from which led into the rest of the building.


Opening
Mr Maguire described telling his two colleagues, Brian Murray (46) and Mark O’Shaughnessy (25), to remain at the inner opening and from that position, fight the fire, which was deeper inside the disused building.

Mr Maguire described how Mr Murray went barely through the opening, making room for Mr O’Shaughnessy to occupy the opening itself from where, in a kneeling position, he could point his hose at the blaze.

“That memory is still there of Mark kneeling down. I didn’t see Brian,” said Mr Maguire.

Mr Ó Braonáin: “You told them to stay there?”

Mr Maguire: “The exact words . . . I know I called out . . . I saw them stopped. I saw Mark stopped, he was kneeling there.”

Mr Ó Braonáin: “But as I understand, the instruction was, ‘just at the door’ – that was where the firefighting was to happen?”

Mr Maguire: “That’s what I believed.”

Staffing levels
Earlier in his deposition to the inquest, Mr Maguire described the exasperation he and his Bray colleagues felt in trying to get fire management to address their concerns. These included staffing levels and the number of firefighters necessary for the safe operation of a tender.

Enthusiastic recruits quickly became disillusioned, he said, leading to a high turnover of staff and an absence of experience among crews.

Despite relaying his concerns, “nothing was ever done.” He concluded eventually that complaining was “a total of waste of time”.