Shrophire Ale sets sail new water truck
A bottle of Shropshire beer was cracked open by the county High Sheriff to "launch" the fire and rescue service's new water rescue truck and boat.
Brigade chaplain Rev Peter Barnes said a prayer to dedicate the new vehicle, which replaces an 18-year-old truck, and will be used to save lives on the river and waterways in Shropshire and also in national emergencies.
It was all part of an ancient fire service ritual revitalised by Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond.
"In the 1800's, the fire appliance was blessed by the local gentry and a bottle of beer was broken on the fire engine's step. All fire engines in the past were always dedicated and blessed. It is a very old tradition and something we wanted to bring back," said Mr Raymond.
"Traditions are important and as we have excellent links with the High Sheriff, he kindly volunteered to carry out the ceremony using a traditional axe which firemen always used to carry."
The High Sheriff said it was "a real honour" to launch the new boat and water rescue truck at the Frankwell marina in Shrewsbury where firefighters train in water rescue techniques.
As a former boat owner, he said he knew how "frightening" and "powerful" the water could be when a river was in flood.
"I wish all who sail in her a safe passage as you go about saving lives," said Mr Hugh Trevor-Jones.
Rev Barnes said: "We dedicate this boat and vehicle for the noble purpose of rescuing those in peril."
Shropshire's Fire and Rescue Service made an £8,000 saving by sourcing the new boat from New Zealand. The Mercedes water rescue truck, with a winch on both ends of the vehicle, will be cheaper to run than its predecessor which had a V8 petrol engine.
The vehicle's bodywork and internal racking was carried out by P.D.Stevens, of Market Drayton with lights and electrical work completed by AE Auto Electrical, of Shrewsbury.
Firefighters are regularly sent on courses at the brigade's training school in Telford which has Royal Yacht Association training centre status. Practical sessions are held in rivers and lakes in Wales before trainees return to Shropshire for training in the fast flowing River Severn in Shrewsbury, Telford and Bridgnorth.
Firefighters attend many water related incidents across Shropshire during floods in Shrewsbury, Telford, Ironbridge, Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth. They are also called out to rescues at Ellesmere lakes and at Melverley, near Oswestry, where a brook regularly floods. They are also sent to the River Wye in neighbouring Herefordshire and to national emergencies.