THERE was no champagne but plenty of sparkling sunshine as Limerick Fire and Rescue Service launched its new powerboat at Steamboat Quay.
A competition to christen the craft attracted 160 entries from schoolchildren all over Limerick with 11-year-old Ellie Mae Rooney having come up with the FireSwift name now proudly printed on the 4.6 metre, 50-horsepower speedboat.
“It reminded me of when I go to England and there’s this really fast boat called Jonathan Swift so I just decided to combine them into FireSwift,” said Ellie Mae, from Kennedy Park and a pupil at Salesians Primary School.
Although grateful to the fire service for having once put out a chimney fire at her house, Ellie Mae sees herself more as a singer than a firefighter in future.
“She’s scared of water anyway,” said nine-year-old brother Robbie.
But Ellie Mae showed no fear in climbing into the boat for the cameras. For her naming talents, she also won an iPad sponsored by Amber Fire Protection on the Dock Road.
The new boat has a speed “of 25 knots or just shy of 40 miles per hour”, explained assistant senior chief fire officer Scott Keenan. A 999 call can see a crew from among Limerick’s 47 trained swift water rescue technicians at the quayside within three minutes and out on the water a minute later.
“The outboard is always wet so all the lads to is hop off, take the cover off unmoor it, reverse off the pontoon and zoom off,” said Mr Keenan.
The FireSwift is only the second boat of its type available to fire services around the country. At a cost of around €30,000 - less than many cars on the road - it represents a terrific investment at a time when river rescue operations are unfortunately on the increase. And being powered by a jet of water rather than a propellor, it makes operations safer for the rescuer and the rescued alike.