A voice rang out from down the hallway, with it’s owner appearing around a corner seconds later.
“Hey! We’ve got a call near the Liffey!
Glenn turned his head from us and cursed quietly.
“Are we goin’ swimming?” he asked, tentatively.
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
Glenn’s head lolled back towards us with a sheepish grin.
“Oh, thank God for that. I’m on the back step tonight, and that river’s dirty as hell.”
Glenn Delves is 29 years old and has been with the Dublin Fire Brigade for seven years. Currently assigned to the Tara Street station (which also serves as Brigade headquarters during the the day), his role as a firefighter, paramedic, and swiftwater rescue technician is nothing unique to the 40-some other firefighters in the house with him.
“Oh yeah, we’re all paramedics… and it just makes sense for most of us to be SRTs, since the river is right nearby and we go in there pretty frequently for all sorts of stuff.”
Waitaminute, back up. Forty firefighters?
“It’s the biggest house in Dublin. Even after HQ shuts down for the day, we still have a lot of people here.”
Almost as if he anticipated the question (probably by the incredulous look on my face), he added:
“Oh, and kitchen duty is horrible.”
The tour of the firehouse was brief but fascinating. The station opened at the intersection of Tara and Pearse Streets was opened as DFB headquarters in April of 1908—the old brick watchtower still stands, and is a historically protected structure by the city of Dublin. Today, it exists as an open-air station with canopy covers for the apparatus and multiple floors for bunkrooms, the mess hall, administrative offices, and “Control Room” (the call-taking center for the entire city as well as many surrounding counties, staffed 24 hours a day by full-time Brigade personnel).
Unfortunately, our trip was cut short by Glenn and the rest of his crew headed out on calls—with approximately 133,000 calls annually, the Dublin Fire Brigade must balance the average 364 daily calls amongst twelve full-time (and three on-call or “retained”) stations. However, with locations like Tara Street staffing two engines, two ladder trucks, one tower ladder, two ambulances, a Haz-Mat Unit, and a District Officer, the workload seems pretty well spread-out.
It was a wonderful trip, and I can’t express my gratitude to the DFB enough. If there’s any Dublin Fire personnel reading this, I sincerely appreciate your hospitality and wish you all the best in your careers—take care and stay safe, brothers.
Oh, and if you ever need a place to crash in D.C., drop me a line and I’d be more than happy to help out.
(I can just hear Dave Dennis now: “That suck-ass rookie paramedic would go to an Irish firehouse and take pitchurrs of a ambalance!” Yep—go ahead, Dave, have your fun.)
This button from the DCFD Emerald Society is older than I am. There’s quite an impressive wall of patches just inside the entrance to the station—incidentally, one of Glenn’s coworkers is now the proud owner of a classic E26/T15 “Foghorn Leghorn” patch.
After Firefighter Delves (unfortunately) stated that he disliked his appointed nickname of “Glennsy,” the jokes compounded until his gear was permanently branded with “Glennsy Delvesy” in permanent marker. Much to his chagrin, he discovered it just as he was escorting these visitors through the facilities.
The distinctive markings on this helmet indicate the rank of “sub-officer;” personnel advance from Firefighter to Sub-Officer to Station Officer to District Officer and beyond, receiving increasing responsibilities with each promotion.
We arrived just in time for evening shift change, so we were witness to the daily equipment checks; it would appear that DFB ladder technicians get to ride in comfortable style while operating the turntable.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t include something about “raising” a “ladder”, no? Terrible joke, I’m sorry.) Both DFB aerial ladders within the Tara Street Station reach 100′ in the air when fully extended. “There aren’t too many high-rises throughout the city,” say Firefighter Delves, “but we’re downtown. The business district around us has the highest buildings you’ll see in Dublin.”
All hose carried on the apparatus is kept rolled. At a fire, the equivalent of the American lineman’s position would get off the piece, unroll a section of hose, connect a nozzle, and then advance to the structure; the Dublin Fire Brigade does not utilize pre-connected lines.
The DFB operates on a 39-hour work week, across four shifts (designated A through D). The spacious accommodations of Tara Street are more than enough to feed and house approximately forty personnel per shift, from firefighter through the on-duty District Officer.
On a non-fire department note: a little bit later, I’ll add some pictures from the highlights of the remainder of my vacation. I know it’s not particularly relevant to RL as a whole, but it’s a beautiful country, and I would highly recommend Ireland for anyone who enjoys traveling.