| 10.4°C Dublin

Two firefighters cheat death after breathing sets fail

Close

PROBE: Horror blaze

PROBE: Horror blaze

PROBE: Horror blaze

TWO firefighters were lucky to escape with their lives after their breathing gear reportedly failed during the rescue of nine people from a blazing flat.

The incidents happened as rescuers from Dublin Fire Brigade attended a flat in Thomas Court, Dublin 8, in which a Malaysian family and four others were trapped.

One fireman who had to run from the second floor after his breathing mask failed was lucky to make it out to the fresh air without collapsing.

The second firefighter was more fortunate because the air supply partially returned as he fled the building on Saturday.

The Dublin Fire Brigade confirmed to the Herald that it was investigating the matter, but a spokesperson refused to comment further.

A union representing fire crews claimed faults with breathing gear had been happening for the past two years, despite a rash of problems being reported to bosses and the Health and Safety Authority.

Firefighters first raised the issue of breathing apparatus malfunctions in January 2012 after failures allegedly occurred on six occasions.

Four of the incidents were said to have happened as firefighters attended emergencies, and two during training.

"What happens is, the mask collapses onto the firefighter's face and then the air supply is stopped" a brigade source told the Herald.

"It's like having a plastic bag put over your head. You then have to get out of the building because you can't breathe.

MONOXIDE

"BUT THE OTHER TEMPTATION IS TO RIP THE MASK OFF YOUR FACE, WHICH LEAVES YOU OPEN TO SUCCUMBING TO NOXIOUS GASSES SUCH AS HYDROGEN CYANIDE AND CARBON MONOXIDE FROM THE FIRE.

"You could end up with a situation where fire personnel are trying to save colleagues while also trying to save the public in a fire situation."

Separately, the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) has said its occupational health and safety unit is aware of the latest reports of malfunctions and is carrying out its own investigations, after which it may seek legal advice on the use of the breathing apparatus units.

A HSA spokesperson, meanwhile, said that the latest reports of equipment problems had not yet been brought to the authority's attention.

The IFESA group is a breakaway from the SIPTU union, but both SIPTU and IMPACT have said they are aware of a possible issue with the equipment – a matter that has been brought to the attention of the Assistant Chief Fire Officer.

The branches of the SIPTU and IMPACT unions representing fire workers have also said they are aware of the reported failure at the blaze on Saturday.

cfeehan@herald.ie


Privacy