Viewpoint: Courage of our fire crews
Published 09/07/2007 | 11:31
The dangers facing firefighters are in focus again today after dramatic events at the weekend.
Crews were tackling a blaze at a derelict house in Newry last night when an event happened that is the stuff of nightmares for themselves and their families.
As the men worked, a massive explosion rang out, blowing five of them off their feet. All suffered from shock and one needed hospital treatment for injuries.
Incredibly, however, none were seriously hurt or even killed. It seems a commander on the scene made the decision to fight the blaze from outside the building, rather than send a team in to battle it internally.
The decision not to go in was either remarkable intuition or the product of good training - or, more likely, a bit of both. Whatever the reason, it saved those men from serious injury or death.
Thankfully, excellent training and quality equipment means the deaths of firefighters in Northern Ireland are rare. One, Joe McCloskey, died in a roof collapse in 2003. Another, Robin Neill, was overcome by fumes in 1995.
The lucky escape in Newry once again highlights the dangers faced by fire crews, and the courage with which they do their job every day.