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Galwayman’s early morning rescue after electric bikes went ablaze

The life-saving efforts of a Galway man who came to the rescue of three neighbours trapped in a housefire have been commended with a national award for bravery.

Joseph Cahill, who is originally from Annaghdown but now lives in Ballybane, was presented with an Oireachtas National Bravery Award at a ceremony in Farmleigh House for his quick thinking on January 12 of this year.

Speaking to the Connacht Tribune, Joseph says he went into “automatic mode” when he was awoken by the screams coming from the house across the street from his own at around 6am.

“You could hear that something was happening – they were screaming,” he recalls of that morning. “I looked out the window and could see the smoke.”

“You just go into automatic mode – instinct takes over,” he continues.

Joseph, who works in automation engineering, says once he became aware what was happening, he ran down to get a ladder from his van to help those who were trapped in the upstairs bedroom escape the blaze.

“My dad is an electrician, so we all get jobs at the weekends. I don’t know if that’s always lucky, but it was lucky on this morning because I had the ladder,” he laughs.

“I had a small fire extinguisher in the house which I brought out and gave them through the window. They were initially trying to get out through the small window, but we broke the bigger part and put a duvet over the bottom so they could get out without tearing themselves,” says Joseph.

There were a number of neighbours on hand to help with the rescue before the fire brigade arrived and got the blaze under control.

“The guys living there worked as Deliveroo riders and had electric bikes. The bikes were charging in a room downstairs and one of them caught fire. Most of the smoke alarms weren’t working, except for one in the room upstairs but by the time they tried to get down, the smoke was too bad and even the handle on the door was red hot,” says Joseph.

Efforts made by neighbours to quell the flames were in vain, he adds, because of the nature of the fire.

“The thing with these new lithium batteries is that it’s almost like throwing petrol on it – as soon as you quench it, it starts up again. Then the tyre of one of the bikes caught fire and the black smoke made it impossible,” says Joseph.

The events of that morning were a real eye-opener to the importance of fire alarms, he says, and a reminder to everyone to frequently test and replace them.

Putting his efforts down to something anyone would do to protect others, he says he’s unsure how the Oireachtas Award came about.

“I’m not sure who put me forward, but we got a call to go up to Dublin and collect it.”

The Ceann Comhairle paid tribute to Joseph and the other recipients of awards at the ceremony which the Galway man attended with his wife, Aisling and new baby, Éabha.

Pictured: Joseph Cahill, after receiving a Certificate of Bravery at the Oireachtas National Bravery Awards with wife Aisling and baby Éabha.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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