Changes to Wicklow Fire Service outlined at inquest

Bray firefighters Brian Murray (46) and Mark O’Shaughnessy (26) died in 2007

Changes that have taken place within the Wicklow Fire Service since the 2007 deaths of two Bray fire fighters were outlined today at their inquest.

The current chief fire officer Aidan Dempsey, who was appointed in 2012, explained how emergency calls to the fire service were now processed via British Telecom and the Eastern Region Control Centre (ERCC), which is run by the Dublin Fire Brigade in Townsend Street and serves all of Leinster as well as Cavan and Monaghan.

On the day of the fire, April 26th 2007, in which the two men, Brian Murray (46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (26) died, calls were dealt with by a watch room in Bray Fire Station where equipment was broken and the person taking calls had no training.

As part of the change-over to the ERCC, plans for which were in hand before the men’s deaths, Wicklow Fire Service also now reacts to emergency calls by following a series of what are known as PDAs – written, pre-determined responses that dictate the scale of the response by the service according to the reported event, be it a gorse fire, for example, or a fire in a house.

In September 2007, Bray had just one written PDA which related to the level of response to vehicle crashes on the N11 road.

Mr Dempsey also explained how the Fire Service now updated its safety statement on an annual basis, a document that was 13 years out of date at the time of the fire and one aspect of the Circut Court conviction of the Council last year.

All of the county’s fire fighters have also been trained now in the use of Compressed Air Foam (Cafs), deployed on the day of the fire but in the absence of full training, said Mr Dempsey.

Within Bray station, nine of the 14 fire fighters currently there (the establishment is 15) have certificates allowing them drive fire tenders. On the day of the fire, when a second fire tender was needed, there was no qualified driver available to drive it.

Mr Dempsey was asked by the coroner, Dr Brian Farrell: "And what was the driving force behind these improvements? Did they eminate from the fire service, from the ERCC, from the Department of the Environment or form any other agencies?"

Mr Dempsey said the changes were “driven centrally”.

“I would say there were changes taking place in the period preceeding 2007, mainly driven centrally and the speed of change has definately accelerated,” he said.

The inquest continues.