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Friday 19 September 2014

Fireman felt service was 'gambling with lives', inquest told

Gareth Naughton

Published 26/02/2014 | 02:30

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26/09/2008 A photo of Firemen Mark O' Shaughnessy...26/09/2008 A photo of Firemen Mark O' Shaughnessy & Brian Murray at the scene during a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy where two firemen Brian Murray (aged 46) and Mark O'Shaughnessy (aged 26) died while they were tackling a fire in Bray, Co. Wicklow. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
A photo of Firemen Mark O' Shaughnessy & Brian Murray at the scene during a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy

FIREFIGHTER Brian Murray told his station officer that the Wicklow Fire Service was "gambling with people's lives" by not addressing problems in Bray fire station shortly before his own death, an inquest heard.

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Mr Murray (46) died alongside Mark O'Shaughnessy (25) as they fought a blaze at a disused ink factory at Adelaide Villas in Bray on September 26, 2007.

Last year, Wicklow County Council was fined €355,000 after pleading guilty to health and safety violations in relation to the incident.

At the fourth day of the inquest at Dublin Coroner's Court, station officer Jim Maguire outlined a range of problems at the station that he said went unaddressed by senior management in the service.

He told the inquest he believes his crew did not have sufficient resources to deal with the fire that day.

The station had not had a full complement of retained firefighters for a number of years.

He regularly raised this with senior management, he said, but "nothing was ever done to alleviate the situation".

"We believed that there was absolutely no consideration given to the problems as none of the management of the service had ever been in the situation of being a retained firefighter. They never had to face the dangers of the job," he said.

He also raised issues about the control room claiming that decisions were being made by fire control operators with no training.

The emphasis was placed on establishing the bona fides of the caller over the nature of the incident, he said, and he believed there was a practice of "vetting" calls because sending firefighters to incidents that were not serious cost "a lot of money".

"Fires start off small but get bigger with each minute, and with every minute's delay the firefighters are put into a much more dangerous situation," he said.

Mr Murray became disillusioned with the service after a 2005 firefighters' strike failed to spur any action, according to Mr Maguire.

A couple of weeks before the fatal incident, Mr Murray told him about calls being vetted. "We spoke about all these problems and the lack of action," said Mr Maguire.

"Brian said to me that 'someone will have to die, they are gambling with people's lives'. He said that he hoped that I was in charge of the incident where someone did die as he did not want to have to shoulder that burden."

The inquest continues.

Irish Independent

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