Blaze-death firefighter warned superiors of dangers

An experienced firefighter killed on duty with his young colleague warned superiors weeks before they died of dangerous practices in the local fire service.

An experienced firefighter killed on duty with his young colleague warned superiors weeks before they died of dangerous practices in the local fire service.

Brian Murray, 46, died alongside Mark O’Shaughnessy, 26, in September 2007 after they became trapped inside a disused smoke-filled factory in Bray, Co Wicklow.

The men’s families claim there was a delay in responding to the fire as the blaze was out of control by the time fire crews arrived.

They believe this was a major factor in the two men’s deaths.

Mr Murray wrote to the county’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer Joanne O’Connor three weeks before he died after office workers were asked to check a fire themselves before firefighters were called out.

“It has come to our attention that there have been numerous callouts that we have not been alerted for, this practice as always is totally unacceptable,” he wrote.

Mr Murray said the first call was in August 2007 after a bush fire on Bray head and the second followed an emergency call from staff at Trinity Biotech offices.

“On arrival we were informed by staff that they had looked for assistance earlier, however they were told to check it out themselves, a dangerous and unacceptable practice,” Mr Murray wrote.

“We hope you will investigate these matters as soon as possible and report back to us.”

The letter, dated September 4, 2007 was written by Mr Murray on behalf of the town’s firefighters.

Mr Murray, a 10-year veteran of Bray’s retained fire service, died on September 26 2007.

Darren Murphy, spokesman for the families, said they believed there was a 20 minute delay in responding to the factory blaze – and they claim it was a major factor in the men's deaths.

“Brian is partially predicting his own demise (in the letter),” Mr Murphy said.

“They (fire brigade) definitely do not respond immediately, what they’ll do is that they’ll look to see if a call warrants a response or not.”

An inquest into the mens’ deaths opened today at Dublin County Coroner’s Court and adjourned until next March as a Garda inquiry into the deaths continues.

Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty said a post mortem examination found the men died in the fire after inhaling hot gases and suffering burns.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis found no evidence of trauma to indicate crushing although breathing equipment was damaged.

Gardaí are investigating.

“These are two very tragic deaths and I would like to extend my sympathies to the families,” Dr Geraghty said.

Speaking after the short hearing, Mr Murphy hit out at Wicklow County Council.

“The cause of death was negligence on the part of Wicklow County Council, allowing a badly resourced team of fire officers, very dedicated, very experienced fire officers, but under resourced, to attend to a fire,” Darren Murphy said.

“They’ve cut corners on training, they’ve cut corners on equipment, they’ve cut corners on recruiting new fire fighters. They’ve cut corners everywhere they can.

“Even when they have firefighters on duty, they’ve cut corners because they don’t respond to every call.”

Mr Murphy said the fire services throughout the country were rotten to the core and there needed to be a root and branch reform.

The Gardaí, the Health and Safety Authority and Wicklow County Council are investigating the deaths.

Two people, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 20s were both questioned by detectives but have been released without charge.

A plaque to commemorate the two firemen was unveiled at Bray Fire Station in September.

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