Monday 11 December 2017

Leave ambulance service with fire brigade – veteran

Balbriggan temporary Fire Station. Dessie Tolan is retiring.
Balbriggan temporary Fire Station. Dessie Tolan is retiring.
Balbriggan temporary Fire Station. Dessie Tolan is retiring.

A fireman who has retired after 28 years of service claims it would be wrong to take the ambulance dispatch system away from the service.

Dessie Tolan, aged in his 60s, worked in the Balbriggan station since 1987 until recent weeks.

A forum has been convened by Dublin City Council to work out a future system for the use of Dublin’s fire brigade ambulance service.

“They are great lads and girls in the HSE ambulance service, but the system at the moment works very well and Dublin Fire Brigade should be able to maintain the current way of taking the calls and responding to them,” Mr Tolan insisted.

Balbriggan temporary Fire Station. Dessie Tolan is retiring.

He said dealing with the drop in adrenaline levels will be difficult, now that he is living the quiet life.

“My uncles were founding members of the Balbriggan fire service when they used a hand cart which was pushed and pulled by men,” he told the Herald.

“Then my brothers Brendan and Richard were firemen also, and they advised me to join and I was there nearly 30 years,” he added.

“At the beginning there would have been many big fires and they were fought from the outside, and they were dangerous times for a fireman, but then as they years went on the equipment and the training improved greatly,” Mr Tolan said.

“When we got breathing apparatus it meant we could go into buildings and bring people out, it was a big help,” he said.

“Safety of emergency crews was paramount. We would be told that we were there to help someone and it wasn’t much use if we then needed help ourselves,” he added.

Dessie said the worst day of his career was when two little brothers, Aaron and Seamus Parsons from Balruddery, were killed crossing the road on their way home from school on October 26, 1990.

“They were only eight and nine years old. I knew their older siblings and their parents, and it was just the worst day for me. It was such a tragedy for them,” he said.

“Some of my kids were around the same age at the time, and I’ve dealt with many cot deaths too. The cases with children are the ones that break you,” he quietly said.

“But while there will be days of tragedy, there will also be days when you pull someone out of a fire or a crashed car, or revive them,” he said.


“Stopping is difficult now, and I find myself wondering where the crews are and the jobs they are on, but I won’t miss the

pager going off – sometimes twice in the night – and heading out the door to go on a call,” he said.

“Funnily enough, the night I retired, I had no pager and I couldn’t sleep a wink” Mr Tolan laughed.

He is now looking forward to spending more time in the garden and walking, a life much quieter than that of a fireman.


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