“Is there anyone trapped? Is there anyone burnt? Are we taking anyone out? Any casualties? We didn’t know at the time.” – Wexford’s firefighters have been telling their story to South East Radio of the day Wexford General Hospital went on fire.
Last Wednesday week, the 1st March just before four O Clock in the afternoon, the alarm was raised when the fire was just about to take hold of the Hospital.
Wexford based fireman Jack O’Leary was one of just two firemen available at the time and they were the first to arrive at the scene. They had to work to fight the fire for 20 minutes before help arrived.
Jack says himself and his officer had to get the help of the hospital orderlies to drag the fire hoses to the fire scene. “It was like a little community, they had to help. It was out of control, and we tried to do our best to keep on top of it until the other lads arrived….. the fire was on the fourth floor so I had to get the lads to give me a hand to pull the hoses up the stairs and help me break down the floor.”
Another Wexford based fireman is Martin Morris, he says the fire was so bad that walls and ceilings were falling in front of them as they fought the blaze. “We were the first ones in the building…… Is there anyone trapped? is there anyone burnt? are we taking anyone out? any casualties? We didn’t know at the time. But then when we got up the top…. it was spreading…. we could see it going underground….. The whole two walls fell… lucky there was no one injured or no one killed that day.”
New Ross Sub Station Officer Andrew Walsh was also in the response team, “the fire was actually burning under us and on top of us….the floor was also on fire underneath the floor”.
Sinn Féin TD for Wexford, Johnny Mythen, praised the courage and the selflessness of both the retained firefighters and the hospital staff, who despite being understaffed, were there in the first critical moments of the fire to orchestrate a response until assistance arrived.
Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow and Mythen expressed further concern at the dangers of the understaffed retained fire station in the town, particularly considering Wexford Town, which has a population of over 60,000, is also home to large factories and industrial plants, including the Coca Cola plant and Rosslare Euro port.They argued that Wexford Town should have a full-time service as opposed to a part-time retained fire service.
Teachta Brady, who introduced a Dáil Motion on the Retained Fire Service in November added:“In November I introduced a motion in the Dáil designed to address the core issues that lie at the heart of the Retained Fire Service after considerable consultation with representatives from the Retained Fire Service. “The government, led by Minister Darragh O’Brien, opposed the motion, promising instead to lead out instead on a full review which would address the core issues impacting on the Retained Fire Fighter Service.
“I am further calling on the Minister to investigate how the recruitment and retention issues in the Retained Fire Service impacted on the emergency response to the serious fire at Wexford General Hospital, which could have just as easily ended with catastrophic consequences.“The Minister must heed this warning, and immediately implement the recommendations contained in the report into the Retained Fire Service published by his department late last year.”