Above: Station Officer Aidan Buckley and the crew of Bandon Fire Brigade pictured with Deputy Mayor Cllr Gillian Coughlan at the unveiling of a bench at Bandon Fire Station in member of the deceased members of the Bandon Fire Brigade. Photo Jonathan Tyner
On May 4, 2017, a special ceremony at St. Patrick’s Church in Bandon honoured deceased members of the fire brigade on International Fire Fighters Day, as well as members of other local response agencies.
Station Officer Aidan Buckley has been working at Bandon Fire Station for nearly thirty years and is due to retire at the end of this year. Talking to Kat O’Connor, Aidan reflects on his life as a fireman in Bandon.
Over the past few years the team in Bandon have lost members of their crew and Aidan says it never gets any easier. He lost two of his dearest friends, but believes that “grief is something we have to deal with in life…but having a supportive network around you helps.” The crew work so closely together and go through many difficult experiences, so there’s a great understanding between them. They all share a close bond, so losing a crewmember is like losing a family member
The 2009 floods in Bandon were a huge challenge for Aidan and his team. “It was like a boxing match, you lose the first few rounds, but eventually you get back at it, and you win the fight at the end of the day.” Aidan and the crew never gave up and the support they received from the people of Bandon helped them during such a challenging time. “The 2009 floods were the most challenging for me…we’re all living in town, it’s our town, it’s home.” The community in Bandon may have been devastated by the floods, but everyone helped out in whatever way they could, whether that was supplying soup and sandwiches to the emergency services or making cups of tea for people whose businesses were affected by the floods. Aidan believes that the town’s community spirit came back stronger than ever after the floods.
Aidan has been called out to many difficult incidents throughout his years but the crew at the station have always been a great support during the tough days. He says that having an understanding team makes the hard days bearable. “I’ve a great respect for the lads. And they have a great respect for me. Without that it wouldn’t work.” The team are like a family, which is essential.
Bandon Fire Brigade deal with a range of different incidents, from house fires to road traffic collisions. The job can be extremely strenuous, but Aidan explains how “you have to put a lot of stuff aside and just do the job.” You can’t let your emotions get the better of you when you’re working. Talking with the crew or with your family after a particularly tough day helps a lot. “Talking about it back at the station and keeping an eye on the lads” is so important. Aidan says his family have been a great support over the years. The hours are unpredictable but luckily Aidan’s family understand how much his job means to him. “One thing people fail to realise is that joining the fire service can affect your family as well.”
Aidan is not looking forward to retiring at the end of the year and says he will miss everything about his role at the station. The team are like his family and the station is his home away from home. He believes he’ll find it hard adjusting to life away from the station because “the job is always with you.” However, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, especially his wife who has been a great support to him over the years.
The support of the Bandon community means the world to Aidan and the team at the fire station. When Aidan retires later this year, he expects to miss meeting people and being there for the residents of Bandon. Aidan has been involved in numerous fundraising events that have brightened many people’s lives around the town. The crew host an annual car wash where the money raised goes towards a different charity every year. Aidan also visits national schools and does a presentation on fire safety for the pupils. He has also been involved in a special Christmas event since 1990, where Santa travels to the local schools in the fire engine with the help of Aidan and the crew. All of their kind actions were acknowledged in 2016 when they were awarded the Spirit of the Community Award. Aidan had the honour of accepting the award on behalf of the emergency and voluntary services. “It was very touching…I was over the moon for us.” The award showed him that the community really appreciated everything they do. “The community was saying thanks lads and that means a lot.”
If you are considering joining the fire service Aidan believes that you should wait until you’re at least twenty-five, as the job can have a huge impact on both your personal and social life. The hours are hectic and Aidan thinks “it’s worse than full time work because you’re always on call.” The job takes so much time out of your life so your heart has to be in it. You have to have a love and passion for the job, and if you’re just doing it for the money, you won’t last. Aidan says becoming a fire fighter will open your eyes and change your view on life, however you need to be committed to your role.
Aidan has experienced both bad and good days over the past few decades in the Bandon fire service. He has attended horrifying road traffic accidents, battled floods and attended house fires, but his years at the station have “taught me how to treasure my life more. It’s given me a different view on life and opened up my eyes more.”
After the mass on May 4, a commemorative bench was unveiled at the station, which is dedicated to the memory of all the deceased members of the Bandon Fire Station. Aidan’s daughter was the brain behind this idea and he says there was a great reaction to the bench. “Everyone is more than welcome to visit the bench. They can sing to it, talk to it, pray to it. It’s there for every member and anyone who wants to visit it.”