After 34 years fighting fires, the Redcastle man - who has lived in Carn for 40 years - spent his last day in the role fighting a gorse fire for seven hours in Culdaff.
However, while it was a tough day’s work and one that began at 4am in the morning, there was a silver lining of sorts as he got to work alongside his colleagues, not only in Carndonagh, but also in Moville Fire Service.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ as he began to settle into retirement, Brian outlined how some of the biggest changes he has seen over three decades were in the many advancements in technology and work practises in the fire service.
However, he outlined how the one constant has been the camaraderie and close bonds that have been built among firefighters in stations, not only in Inishowen, but across Donegal.
Many of those colleagues joined him in a retirement function earlier this week, which also provided an opportunity to celebrate his 60th birthday.
Brian moved to Carndonagh after marrying ‘a Glengad woman’.
He told how they had decided to settle ‘somewhere in the middle’ of the townlands of Redcastle and Glengad and Carn was chosen. While Redcastle will always be his ‘home,’ Brian said that Carn and its people have always been ‘very good’ to him.
He joined the fire service in 1998 and was attracted to the role due to its flexibility. In the last three decades, he has seen many tragedies and rescues, heartbreak and triumphs and was instrumental in saving lives.
The advances in technology and equipment, which, combined with top class training and support had led to Donegal Fire Service as being ‘up there at the top in the country.”
“The equipment and everything has moved on a lot since I first started, as has the training there is so much professionalism. They really have a full-time service for a part-time brigade. You have to be on the road within four minutes of the bleeper going off, so you have to live close to the station.
“It’s a big responsibility but the training is really excellent and I went on to be an emergency first responder.”
It’s a big commitment, with seven of the nine crew always needing to be available and Brian concedes that events like family birthdays have been missed. But this dedication has meant that they are a tight knit team.
Brian quipped: “The boys in Carn station are great craic and there’s a lot of banter. You don’t need to make any mistakes or you will definitely hear it back!
“It really is like being married to eight men. You know when they’re away and what everyone is going. We do work really well together. We also work very closely with Moville and Buncrana as it’s all Inishowen - we work in tandem together. We would work with Derry at times, although with Buncrana and Moville being nearer the border, we would work with them more. But you know it’s a big job if Derry is there.”
The closeness and camaraderie proves crucial during tough times, which they unfortunately have faced on many occasions.
“The worst part about it would be the road traffic accidents. There were a few bad fires, but the deaths and injuries in accidents was the hardest part to deal with. My condolences to the families who have lost a loved one throughout the years.”
Being from a close knit community, Brian and his colleagues would also personally know many of the victims. He takes comfort from the fact that he has helped people and provided support in their time of need.
The team have also always ‘rallied around each other’ and counselling is also available after traumatic events. This was something that was introduced ‘around 15 years ago’ and is very much welcomed, Brian explained.
He also has many fond memories, not least when Carndonagh Fire Service travelled to New York around five years ago to take part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade.
“It was fantastic. We were treated like royalty. We also did a lot of fundraising for Aoibhann’s Pink Tie and the Donegal Hospice, which was great.”
Following Brian’s retirement, just two of the ‘original crew’ who joined with him are now still there - Seamus McLaughlin (The Mason) and Joe Butler.
The rest, including Station Officer Eddie Doherty Miller, all came along after Brian joined and he described them all as ‘fantastic.’ While he has dedicated over three decades to fire safety in Inishowen and looks back on it fondly, Brian, who has two daughters and three grandchildren, said he knew it was time to leave.
He is not straying too far, however, from his role of keeping people safe and saving lives and will drive for NowDoc, the emergency doctor service.