NORTHERN Ireland’s largest inhabited island received a special delivery by ferry yesterday – a new fire engine.
The appliance arrived on Rathlin Island after making the 45-minute journey by water onboard MV Canna, which departed from Ballycastle harbour last Wednesday morning.
The engine will be used by the small team of volunteer firefighters to provide an emergency service for the island’s population of less than 100 people.
Ballycastle watch commander Hugh Magill, who aided in successfully transporting the engine to its new home, said the old appliance had served its purpose.
“The one they had was becoming outdated,” he said.
“There is more room on the new appliance – it is a better engine and a better pump. It is a pretty good machine and looks well.”
Rathlin’s latest fire engine is thought to be no more than five years old and previously performed emergency duties in the Belfast area.
Mr Magill admitted the Rathlin station would be one of the least active in Northern Ireland, however, he maintained that the service it provided to people living on the island was essential.
“They do not get a lot of (emergency) calls. It depends on the weather but they still need the same cover the rest of the people get on the mainland.”
In the case of a major emergency, the senior Ballycastle fireman revealed colleagues on the island could avail of support.
“They only have the one engine so if there was a major disaster we would be alerted too and would have to get the next ferry over or a helicopter,” he said.
Paying tribute to the current team of seven volunteers, Mr Magill confirmed some of the elder firemen are contemplating retirement but four recent recruits are currently undergoing training following a recruitment process.
One of the volunteers is the proprietor of the island’s souvenir shop which is a popular attraction for visitors.
In 2007, a new purpose-built emergency rescue station was opened on the picturesque island off the north coast.
The facility is used jointly by the fire service and coastguard personnel.