CARS were sliced, sirens screamed and a man was hoisted 90 feet skywards at Dublin Road in Portlaoise on Monday.
Local brigade members were displaying their skills after Environment Minister Martin Cullen had officially opened their €1,860,000 fire station.
The new building, replacing one built in the late 1950s, has state-of-the-art facilities, including six fire engine bays, a maintenance garage and lecture room. In the spacious drill yard is a drill tower.
Construction of the fire station began in November 2001 and was completed last September. Completed in April were the drill yard and ancillary works.
Portlaoise fire brigade answers up to 300 calls annually. As Laois chief fire officer Martin Collins noted, its members, though officially part-timers, are really on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Men of the old brigade were at the official opening ceremony. Men such as former assistant chief fire officer Tom Burke, Owen Deegan, Lar Dooley, Paddy Bracken and John Kavanagh.
Currently, the longest-serving members are station officer John Culliton and driver/mechanic John Ging. They joined up 28 years ago. Incidentally, John Ging’s son, also named John, has followed his father’s footsteps into the brigade.
Assistant station officer is PJ Delaney and the second driver/mechanic is George Broomfield. There are eight firemen.
All formed a guard of honour for Minister Cullen on his arrival at the new fire station. The Scoil Mhuire band provided the music. Portlaoise rector Rev Hilary Anne Dungan and former parish priest Rev George Brophy blessed the premises.
County manager Martin Riordan said Portlaoise was one of the Midlands’ fastest growing towns and, he added, the fire service was one of the essential elements of its infrastructure.
Portlaoise mayor Joe McCormack, on behalf of the town community, thanked the firemen for their continued support and sacrifice.
He pointed out: “The work they do and the unsociable hours are unenviable.”