On the evening of the 20th September 1985, Mr. Joe Stapleton was completing his duties as the Town Sergeant when he discovered a fire on the upper floor of the City Hall. Mr. Stapleton's first reaction was to go downstairs and alert the fire service, he also opened the main gates to allow the firemen easy access. He then ran back upstairs and went into the Council Chamber where he got the 17th Century charters of the City and brought them to safety. Mr. Stapleton was a member of the fire service at the time and his knowledge of fires paid off.
Here's how it went down:
18:25 - Call received in the watchroom at Kilkenny City Fire Station by phone duty officer Mr. Pat Slattery stating that the City Hall was on fire. Mr. Slattery then alerted the crews.
18:27 - Water tender leaves station with Mr. G. Duffy (Driver), Mr. T. Lacey, Mr. M. Kavanagh, Mr. D. Duffy and Mr. M. Cleere.
18:28 - Snorkel leaves with J. Kennedy (Station Officer), K. Howley, T. Comerford and J. Barry.
At this time Mr. Joe Stapleton was in attendance as fireman at the scene of the fire.
18:33 - Jeep leaves with Mr. P. Doyle, M. Rowe, J. Ayres and M. Kavanagh.
18:33 - E.T. leaves with J. Walton (Sub Officer), J. Traynor and A. Kavanagh.
When Station Officer, Mr. J. Kennedy arrived at the fire and assessed the situation he saw that it was a major fire. He requested assistance from Callan and Freshford. The Fire Chief was also notified and was at the scene within minutes. He then took charge of the operation. As the fire was so large and the water demand so big, the hydrants could not supply all the water necessary.
When Freshford arrived they were sent down to the bank of the River Nore to pump water back up to the scene. By this time the fire had engulfed the clock tower and the snorkel was playing an important role in stopping the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. Meanwhile four firemen wearing breathing apparatus were fighting the fire from the top floor offices; J. Traynor, M. Kavanagh, P. Doyle and T. Comerford. They were in constant radio contact with Station Officer J. Kennedy on the ground floor. Station Officer J. Kennedy was also in constant radio contact with T. Lacey and M. Cleere in the cage of the snorkel.
19:15 - Fire brought under control. The long job then started of searching for small pockets of fire and clearing away burned out debris.
01:20 - Fire crews dismissed and return to the station.
It took 35 firemen and six fire engines to fight the fire