Fire-stricken family salutes the local rescue services

WE wish to express our deep gratitude to the members of the fire service in Clonakilty and Bandon for their professionalism and prompt action in tackling a fire at our home last weekend.

Late on Friday night/Saturday morning I had to call the emergency services as the safety of our family and home were in grave danger.

At 1.10am as I sleepily watched a late night movie on TV, I heard a bang and assumed it was one of my young children falling out of bed yet again.

Immediately afterwards I heard a crackling that sounded initially like heavy rain.

On going to the kitchen to investigate I was faced with the explosive power of a large garden shed at the back of my home that appeared like the bright light of the sun. I ran to the utility room, which was closer, and on entry the window cracked with the heat from the fire.

Immediately I awakened my family, called 999 and vacated the house as quickly as possible.

It amazed me that the 999 call was answered instantly without even a ringtone and they immediately passed me on to the fire service. The time lapse between the initial call and the arrival of the fire service was between 12 and 14 minutes.

As it was classed a house fire, two units of the fire brigade from Clonakilty arrived, followed a short time later by two more from Bandon and the gardaí from Clonakilty.

On the arrival of the fire brigade from Clonakilty, the situation was immediately taken in hand by the chief fire officer that night. He quickly went through his checks. Was everyone out of the house? Where were the major hazards – gas drums, electricity, oil tanks, etc?

By then the other firemen were already in breathing apparatus and ready to tackle a fire of considerable heat and intensity.

We felt in safe hands in a very short time. As the fire services arrived the windows and fascia at the back of the house had started to melt, the oil tank had begun to leak from the valve and become distorted from the heat. The tank had been filled with 1,100 litres of kerosene just a few days earlier.

I am not prone to melodrama or devoutly religious and I don’t believe in fate or a great plan. It is only now we realise how a number of helpful factors saved our family. The normal prevailing wind in west Cork comes from the south or south-west. Last Friday night it came from the east or south-east blowing the flames and heat away from our home. That late night movie with Michael Caine proved a little too interesting for me to call it an early night.

My wife, Rena, and I had cancelled a planned weekend away, leaving our children at home with a babysitter to take up an offer of dinner at a friend’s house on Saturday night.

We are still shocked and above all thankful to the emergency services, to the plumber and electrician who had our water supply restored next day, to colleagues, customers and friends who offered assistance, and for that kind and too appealing invite to dinner.

I look at my wife and children and I can only be thankful for their lives and realise how close a call it really was.

In kindest appreciation...

Darrin Sexton

Kilnagross

Clonakilty

Co Cork

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