Thursday 22 February 2018

Be spooky but safe - appeal to parents ahead of Halloween

Three-year-old Odhran Keegan from Lucan, Dublin, with his Jack O'Lantern.
Three-year-old Odhran Keegan from Lucan, Dublin, with his Jack O'Lantern.
Sam Kyrychenko (6) in the Hallowen House of Horrors in Killiney.
Zoe McGougan (10) from Dublin at the Halloween Extravaganza Family Fun Day at St Catherine's Church and Graveyard, Dublin
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

It is always the busiest night of the year for them - and fire service crews are braced for Halloween mayhem, with up to five times more calls than the average evening expected tonight.

Schools are out, the weather is expected to be reasonably dry and it's a Saturday night - so the teams at Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) are preparing for the worst.

One senior member acknowledged they are expecting tonight to "be a bit busier than normal".

Last year, DFB responded to 600 calls during the 24-hour period of October 31, and they expect that figure to be in the same region tonight.

The number of calls DFB attends to on an average day, 120, pales in comparison.

But the capital's first responders will be ready, as they have been preparing for months.

"We would have the same numbers of crews on," Tom Daly, a DFB district officer, said. "We don't put anything extra on for Halloween, but we do an assessment.

"We don't send fire engines to everything, so we would have an officer in each district. A senior officer would drive around, he would go and check out the bonfire that was reported to see if it warrants a fire engine or not. So, in that respect, we will be busier and the volume of calls will be bigger.

"That would be our approach. We 'risk assess' the severity of the fire, what it is near to, whether it is blowing smoke into people's houses or what is happening with it."

There is an average of 160 crew members, who are also trained paramedics, working in Dublin city and county on any given day or night.

Last year, they kept followers updated on Halloween on social media as they attended 600 calls. This included 161 bonfires, seven domestic fires, 17 car fires and four road traffic accidents.

Of course, as the first responders attend the scenes of bonfires, blazes and mischief they are also putting themselves in danger. Many have experienced assaults and have been forced to protect themselves against rocks being thrown at them in recent years.


"Last year, we did have a number of incidents," Mr Daly said. "There was not a whole lot, but there were crews and fire engines that were pelted with stones, but nobody was injured.

"One fire engine had its windscreen broken and then that engine couldn't be used."

The trouble started early this year, as they were forced to respond to an inner city flat complex three times in one night and were pelted with stones while they attended a fire.

A stockpile of bonfire material was set alight next to Basin Street flats on Thursday evening, causing damage to overhead Luas lines.

Four units of DFB responded to the scene and were pelted with rocks while putting out the substantial blaze.

Mr Daly will be on the night shift tonight, reporting for duty at 6pm, and is due to finish at 10am tomorrow morning.

"It's a busier day, but we do plan to cater for it."

After 30 years in the service attending blazes, firework displays and bonfires, he has seen some tragic incidents.

"Any of the injuries (in a fire) are injuries for life. You take your child and they are standing too close to the bonfire and they get burnt - it's a scar for life, it won't be gone in a couple of months.

"One of the main things we would like to do is to send a message to parents - know where your children are. If you know where they are, there is less mischief that goes on," he added.

The National Ambulance Service urged families who go trick-or-treating to ensure that they are visible, and reminded parents to ensure that children cannot trip over their costumes and that masks do not obscure their vision, suggesting face paints as an option instead.

The AA added that motorists should err on the side of caution tonight, and slow down - particularly in housing estates where children will be about.

Irish Independent

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