Cork’s fire service

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In 1920 the Cork Fire and Ambulance Brigade had been in existence for 43 years, having been established as a municipal entity in 1877, and had been commanded since 1891 by Capt. Hutson. Operating out of the Central Fire Station on Sullivan’s Quay (on the south channel of the River Lee), and substations at Grattan Street (city centre) and Shandon Street (northern suburbs), it comprised ten full-time men and thirteen part-time auxiliaries. The latter were, typically, employed in the city engineer’s department of Cork Corporation; after their normal day’s work, they performed a raft of non-fire-fighting duties, such as watchroom duty, theatre duty, etc., and responded to fires on the ‘second alarm’. Unlike the major conurbations of Dublin and Belfast, however, Cork lagged behind in the matter of modern fire-fighting plant, having, for example, no motor pumps. Instead, it relied on horse-drawn hose-reels that tapped directly into the city’s water mains when tackling fires. An ageing Merryweather steam pump was pressed into action as the occasion demanded.

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