BY JACKIE KEOGH
BANDON Fire Station is a busy station but the ten fire fighters there still find the time to organise fire safety and training courses, put up people’s fire alarms on a voluntary basis, and take part in charity events.
The nine male, and one female, fire fighters have all done their bit by individually taking part in numerous charity runs and cycles. However, it was only a few months ago that they decided to come together to organise a car wash that raised €1,650 for a local charity.
‘It was our first fundraising initiative as a crew but it certainly won’t be our last,’ said station officer Aidan Buckley. Of course, the crew’s obvious fitness lends itself to carrying out challenging feats, but Aidan said the car wash was probably the most collective fun they’ve had in ages.
‘We got a really good response from people who happily queued to have their car cleaned. We washed 107 cars on the day and it turned out to be a great community event. It also gave us an opportunity to meet people because most of the time we are, obviously, in a rush.’
The event gave people a chance to check out the fire station that was bought by Cork County Council in the early 1980s and completely refurbished and extended before it was opened in 1987. The local authority even put in a new road that allowed the fire crews quick access to the town’s by-pass.
‘Before that the facilities were pretty basic,’ said Aidan. ‘The station was a building at South Main Street and apart from an old fire engine from the 1950s nothing else could fit inside the premises.
‘The facilities here are top class,’ said Aidan, who joined the service in 1989 and now happily works alongside Ken Johnson, who is the sub-station officer; Harold Atkinson, the driver mechanic; and fire fighters Leslie Shannon, Eleanor Tobin, John O’Connell, Keith Faithful, Aiden Whelton and Ger Crean.
There was more good news for the crew in 2013 when they took possession of a new fire tender valued at €300,000, courtesy of the Department of Environment.
‘We have good facilities but we need them because this is a busy station averaging 120 calls a year,’ said Aidan.
The numbers are, however, on their way down. Aiden told The Southern Star: ‘We are down about 30% because we are seeing better fire safety and less chimney fires.’
Bandon is also unusual in that it doesn’t get a lot of gorse fires compared with other fire fighting services in the western part of the county.
Another notable feature of Bandon Fire Station is its hi-tech equipment, including an early warning system that means each of the fire fighters – all of whom live within a mile of the station – can be ready for action within four minutes of the alarm being raised.
Throughout the year, Bandon Fire Station has the distinction of being the station of choice when it comes to teaching recruits basic fire fighting techniques.
‘The courses have been held here since 1990 because we are so well set up for it,’ said Aidan.
‘It is a good location because we have excellent off-site spots that are suitable for exercises and drills, such as the Mill, a nearby stream, the river, the mart and the GAA course.’
Aidan’s life-long and abiding interest in the fire service is shared somewhat by his brother Ger Buckley – a vintage car enthusiast who bought the 1974 Bandon fire tender simply because ‘it is a beautiful machine.’
Aidan explained: ‘The tender was here in the service. She came in as a new appliance in 1974 and was in use up to the 1990s. When she came off the run we decided to keep her here as a vintage model, but then Ger bought it.’
Ger, who is well known in vintage rally circles, has given the old tender a new lease of life because every Christmas it pressed into service once again to take Santa Claus to the local schools – another self-less act by the Bandon team.
‘The children love it,’ said Aidan, ‘and it’s a bit of craic as well.’