Two firefighters who have dedicated decades of their lives to protecting the public were honoured at a retirement ceremony at Brownlow House.
Jarlath Lavery, watch commander, and John Joseph (Sean) McMillen, a firefighter, have both retired after long careers with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.
Watch commander, Dean McClatchey, praised both men and thanked them for their years of service. Jarlath has spent 30 years as a firefighter and was promoted to leading firefighter and then watch commander in June 2006. He retired in June after 30 years of service.
Sean McMillen joined the fire brigade in 1989 and has spent 26 years working with the service. During his time as a firefighter he was an IFE member, a Duke of Edinburgh instructor and union official with FBU, as well as a LGV training instructor in Belfast. He retired on June 17 after 26 years.
Speaking about his time with the fire service Sean described it as a brilliant career. He said: “From first to last we had our ups and downs but more ups than downs. “The job has its dangers, and there’s always drama, but firefighters are trained to deal with all eventualities. At times we were called out to nine or 10 fires every day in Craigavon. I remember one year when we responded to 1,100 call outs, so it was intense, but everyone in the service is so dedicated to the job. It’s a brilliant career.” he explained.
“The service has changed over the years and has been subjected to cuts but it’s a great career and I would recommend it to anyone,” he added.
Sean described his colleagues as being like a big family and that he would miss them greatly. He said: “The people were like a big family and even though there were many difficult times there was always somebody to talk to. That’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Since his retirement Sean has been concentrating on his driver training business and can use some of the skills he has learned from his long career with the fire service to train other drivers.
Both firefighters, who are friends, retired on the same day and are looking forward to having more time to spend with their family and friends. The retirement celebration at Brownlow House was a fitting tribute to both firefighters who have shown bravery and dedication to the public by their long service.