Past and present members of Limerick County Fire and Rescue Service gathered at Rathkeale Fire Station last Thursday for an event marking the service’s 70th anniversary.

The origins of the local Fire Service date back to December 1942 when Limerick County Council located a newly purchased Sultzer Fire Engine, the county’s only fire engine, in Rathkeale. At the same time, Council worker John Doyle was appointed Cap-tain of the Fire Service and tasked with recruiting five men to operate the engine.

Among those gathered in Rathkeale on Thursday night were family members of the late John Doyle and the late Paddy O’Sullivan, who was the County’s first Chief Fire Officer.

Speaking at the event Cllr. Jerome Scanlan, Cathao-irleach of Limerick County Council, stated that while the scale and capacity of the Fire Service had changed during the past 70 years, the basic objectives of the organisation had remained constant.

Ms Josephine Cotter Coughlan, Director of Services with responsibility for the Emergency Ser-vices, acknowledged the key figures involved with the development of the local Fire Service during the last seven decades, including the late Dick Haslam who as County Manager between 1970 and 1988 oversaw the construction of six fire stations. During this time, the organisation was also well served by Chief Fire Officer Joe McGrath and Assistant Chief Fire Officer Frank Dennison, who was a member of Limerick County Fire and Rescue Service for 37 years.

Carmel Kirby, Chief Fire Officer, said: “I want to thank successive County Managers and elected council officials for their ongoing investment in the local fire service. My colleagues and I look forward to continuing to commit our experience, energy and enthusiasm to the job and in doing so honour the memory of those who have contributed to the development of Limerick County Fire and Rescue Service.”

Limerick County Fire and Rescue Service

Remarkably, there was no obligation in Ireland to have any public firefighting 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 II, 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 one Sultzer fire engine to be based in Rathkeale. Doyle was appointed Captain of the new County Fire Service. He was told to base himself in Rathkeale and to recruit five men.

That said, John and his crew of 5 remained somewhat unique for a number of years in County Limerick. The rest of the county still had to rely on small portable pumps which had to be hauled in trailers. It wasn’t until 1962 that the first new appliance arrived in Rathkeale.

In the intervening period, however, there were some considerable structural and infrastructural develop-ments for the fire service in Limerick. In 1943 plans were finalised for the new Fire Station in the Square in Rathkeale. In 1947 the county was divided into four areas, resulting in the establishment of new fire crews and stations in New-castle West and Kilmal-lock, as well as the city. The Newcastle and Kil-mallock crews were to be given a small allowance for their services. This would turn out to be the beginnings of the local Fire Service.

Abbeyfeale was later est-ablished in 1968 and Cap-pamore 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.