New fire chief has fire in the blood

David Tucker

Published 29/10/2016 | 00:00

Paul L'Estrange with some of the fire-related memorabilia in his new office at Wexford Fire Station.OPPOSITE PAGE: Wexford's new Fire Chief with two of his daughters, Annie and Molly.
Paul L'Estrange with some of the fire-related memorabilia in his new office at Wexford Fire Station.OPPOSITE PAGE: Wexford's new Fire Chief with two of his daughters, Annie and Molly.

wexford'S new fire chief has the service and County Wexford in his blood.

Paul L'Estrange's dad Alfred is a retired third officer from the Dublin Fire Brigade. Two uncles, a cousin and a brother served and or serve with the brigade too.

'It's in the blood, it's a family business,' said the county's recently-appointed chief fire officer, pointing out fire-related memorabilia in his office at Wexford Fire Station including well-used helmets he wore during previous postings and a semi-vintage fire axe that belongs to his father.

Paul, who is drawing up a strategic plan for the fire service in Wexford, said he was looking forward to the challenge.

'The fire service is under review at the moment and I'm in the process of developing a five year strategic plan,' he said, key among the developments the planned new fire station in New Ross and extensions of the fire stations in Wexford, Enniscorthy and Gorey, work on which will begin in 2017.

'All have received verbal or written departmental approval and the works are a priority'.

'I will try to improve what we have, to improve the services we provide to the people of Wexford...it's our job,' he said, adding that the county fire service was proud to be part of Wexford County Council.

'It's important for people to understand that we provide services to the people of Wexford as part of the county council.'

Northside Dublin-born Paul's understanding is that he has Wexford roots dating back hundreds of years and is a descendant of the Normans who came ashore at Baginbun in the south of the county in the 12th century, although he still has to research the details of his ancestry so many miles from his own homeplace in Griffith Avenue on the Northside.

Paul said he attended local schools and played for St Vincent's GAA Club before going to study civil engineering at Trinity, after which he 'took up a position in petrol retail management in Dublin'.

'By the time I was 23 I was the manager of a flagship site with in excess of 60 staff,' said Paul, whose next career step was to succesfully apply to the Dublin Fire Brigade as a fire fighter/paramedic and at the same time study for a degree as a software engineer and a masters in E-Commerce - concentrating on the technical aspects.

A post grad Diploma in Fire Safety Practices in Engineering Design; Paul's 11 years of study earning him some good-natured ribbing as the 'eternal student'.

He worked primarily in Finglas Fire Station until 2007 during his time in Dublin - Ballymun was one of his patches - before applying for the assistant chief fire officer's job in Dundalk, where there was also a regional training station.

His next posting took him to Waterford City as senior assistant chief fire officer, his role concentrated on fire- and public safety and one of the highlights was as the deputy event controller for the 2011 Tall Ships Races.

Paul served in Waterford for seven-and-a-half years before going to Monaghan June of last year where he served as acting chief fire officer.

'I started here in Wexford as chief fire officer on July 18,' said Paul, who is the Republic of Ireland branch president of the Institution of Fire Engineers.

Paul said he had received a warm welcome to the Model County from all within the service and the council.

Under his command he has two senior assistant chief fire officers, three assistant chief fire officers, a full time station officer and 65 retained fire fighters as well as a staff officer and three clerical officers.

A married man, he said he and his wife Charlene, and daughters Eva, who is five in November, Annie, aged three, and Molly, who has just gone one, are embracing life in the Model County and all it has to offer, with Curracloe a particular favourite.

'We spent a year up in Monaghan looking for a beach and and we couldn't find one, so we decided to come back to the sunny south east,' he joked.

Camogie and dancing classes are in prospect for the girls. 'We're looking at that next,' he said.

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