EIGHT members of the Limerick city and county services - who between them have clocked up over 170 years of service - have been honoured for their many years of dedication and bravery at a ceremony in Dublin.
Fergus O’Dowd, Minister of State for the Department of Environment and Local Government, said the awards were “the State’s way of honouring local authority fire service personnel for being there over all the years, for being prepared to respond to calls for help - at all times and in all weathers”.
With 30 years behind him, Rathkeale-based firefighter Edmond Dollery was the longest serving member of either Limerick service to be honoured at the National Long Service Awards.
County Limerick chief fire officer Carmel Kirby; Newcastle West station officer Des Normoyle; Abbeyfeale station officer Denis Joy and John O’Connell, a driver mechanic with the Cappamore unit, were all given medals and certificates after 20 years of service.
And three members of the Limerick City Fire Service - chief fire officer Michael Ryan, sub-officer John Denning and firefighter Paul Knapp - were honoured for having reached the same career milestone.
Much has changed in the 30 years since Edmond Dollery first suited up for an emergency call.
“When I joined the service in 1982, we used to go out in donkey jackets, oilers and PVC gloves which weren’t much use to you and could melt in intense heat but things have changed for the better over the years and the equipment we have today really is second to none. It has come a long way,” he said.
Unlike the full-time service in the city, the crews in County Limerick are retained firefighters and Edmond has to balance being on call for emergency duties with his meter duties for the ESB.
“When you are on call, you have to make yourself available 24 hours a day so our other job has to suit but we find a way.”
Edmond said that of the countless emergency calls he has responded to over the years, it was the traffic accidents involving multiple fatalities which were the most difficult to deal with.
“I have been called to accidents that involved four fatalities on a couple of occasions and they definitely stand out in my mind when I look back at it.”
“The hardest part of it is when you know the people involved in an incident and that can happen. And of course anything involving young children can be difficult as well. And there’s that uncertainty when you are on your way to a call and you don’t know just what exactly you might be dealing with. Other than that, it’s something you have to get used to to be able to do your job,” said Edmond.
Paying tribute to the dedication of Edmond Dollery and his colleagues, Minister O’Dowd said: “your work as fire services personnel highlights personal qualities of courage, strength and empathy when giving assistance to people caught up in emergency incidents”.
He commended the fire service for coping with an ever more diverse and complex range of challenges and referred to the role of continuous training in helping firefighters carry out tasks safely.
According to Carmel Kirby, Limerick County chief fire officer: “Limerick County Fire and Rescue Service has a proud tradition of service to the people of Limerick. The roles and responsibilities of service staff are many and varied. Therefore, continuous training is required to ensure the service responds to and deals with emergency and rescue incidents with maximum efficiency.”
Congratulating the other recipients of awards, Limerick City fire chief Michael Ryan said: “The commitment and professionalism of these long-serving fire fighters is indicative of the highly experienced personnel employed by the Fire Service here in Limerick and indeed around the country.”
It is unlikely that any of the award reciepients will make to 40 years of service. As with members of An Garda Siochana, ordinary firefighters are obliged to retire early and have to pass regular medicals before bowing out at 58.