AFTER 10 years in the hot seat, Dunmanway Fire Brigade station officer Dan McCarthy stepped down at midnight on Saturday, November 17th.
His retirement came just one minute before he turned 65 on November 13th and 42 years after he signed up to help save lives as part of Dunmanway’s fire-fighting crew.
The 10-man team went out recently to the Parkway Hotel in Dunmanway to mark the occasion, but Dan said the real big ‘do’ – the one to which all his family, friends and first responders colleagues will be invited to – will not take place until February 1st next.
Dan said: ‘The service has come on in leaps and bounds since I joined in 1976 and through the good times, and the bad, I have enjoyed every bit of it.’
Today, the service is equipped with an Alpha1 fire tender that can carry a crew of six, plus a Toyota Hilux jeep that carries the four remaining members to incidents, such as fires and road traffic collisions, within a ten-mile radius of the town.
The Dunmanway crew also offers back-up and are frequently called in as ‘the second turnout’ for serious incidents involving their neighbouring brigades in Macroom, Bandon, Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Bantry.
Dan said that like most of the West Cork crews, the Dunmanway outfit is busy and would normally attend 120 call-outs in the year.
In the early days, Dan said gorse fires were rampant, but that has changed in recent years because farmers are clearing their open ground and turning it into grass.
Now, he said, the real danger comes from the fires at young plantations because they burn with a greater intensity. Dan said he has always loved the job but he admitted his wife, Caroline, found it a bit difficult at times, especially when they would be out socialising and the fire alarm would go off and he’d have to change into his gear sharpish.
‘But that’s what you sign up for,’ said Dan, whose brother, Charlie, was the sub-officer until he retired five years ago. Charlie’s retirement cleared the way for yet another McCarthy to join the ranks.
Dan said it was inevitable that his son, Colm, would sign up because even as a young child he would beg his mother to take him to see the fire on which he was working.
‘Colm is a born fire fighter,’ said Dan, ‘it was built into him. He grew up knowing his life would be in the fire service.’ Dan and Caroline’s other children – Daniel and Lisa – had no such interest.
Dan’s colleagues thanked him for his loyal service to his community and wished him a long and happy retirement.
At 65, Dan said: ‘It is time to stand down and enjoy a home life – one that doesn’t mean having your alterter attached to you like part of your body.’