Past and present members of Kilmallock Fire Brigade and their families gathered at Kilmallock’s new Fire Station last Thursday for a special Mass marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Fire Service in County Limerick. Also present were Limerick Fire and Rescue Chief Officer Carmel Kirby, former assistant Chief Fire Officer Frank Dennison, and Tony and Therese Doyle, the son and daughter of the county’s first Captain of the Fire Service, John Doyle. The Mass, celebrated by local curate Fr. Joe Cussen, also remembered the deceased members of the local brigade and was the first Mass in Kilmallock’s spanking new station, which was opened in 2010.

The origins of the Limerick Fire Service date back to December 1942 when Limerick County Council located a newly purchased Sultzer Fire Engine, the county’s solitary fire engine, in Rathkeale. At the same time, Council worker John Doyle was appointed Captain of the Fire Service.

Remarkably, there was no obligation in Ireland to have any public fire-fighting system before 1940, the year in which aerial bombardment of Britain got under way. Fearful of the consequences of Ireland being drawn into World War Two, the Fire Brigades Act was passed in 1940. In December 1942, three men representing Limerick County Council, John Doyle, John King and County manager Patrick J. Meghen, went to Dublin and purchased a Sultzer fire engine to be based in Rathkeale.

While the Sultzer was based in Rathkeale, the rest of the county still had to rely on small portable pumps which had to be hauled in trailers. In the intervening period, however, there were some considerable structural and infrastructural developments for the fire service in Limerick. In 1947 the county was divided into four areas, resulting in the establishment of new fire crews and stations in Newcastle West and Kilmallock, as well as the city. The Newcastle and Kilmallock crews were to be given a small allowance for their services. This would turn out to be the beginnings of the local Fire Service. The Kilmallock station was established in 1950.

Abbeyfeale was established in 1968 and Cappamore in 1969, following a complete review of the county fire service needs. The last full crew was established in Foynes in 1982.

Limerick County Fire and Rescue Service today boasts a complement of 19 appliances in 6 modern stations.

Kilmallock Station Master Mike Moloney ably conducted last Thursday evening’s after-Mass proceedings and among the speakers was the current Chief Fire Officer, Carmel Kirby.