The his­tory of the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade re­vealed

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

– the goal and idea was sim­ple: to es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent fire-fight­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion that would be able to re­spond to any call in the Queen­stown Com­mu­nity. Turn the clock on 150 years, and his­tory will record that, through the fore­sight of a com­mit­ted group in those early days, the es­tab­lish­ment of a fire-fight­ing ser­vice was even­tu­al­ity to be­come a re­al­ity. Cour­tesy of this group’s vi­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion and the over­com­ing of rather slow progress and ini­tial frus­tra­tions, the Queen­stown Fire Brigade was formed and the be­gin­ning of a suc­cess story which to­day spans a cen­tury and a half of com­mit­ment and progress. Fire fight­ing in Queen­stown in its early days was un­der­taken by the Queen­stown Fire Party. Set up in 1861 this group re­sponded to fires in a town which at this time, was rapidly grow­ing and com­prised of build­ings which tended to be ‘fire prone’ while the use of can­dles, open fires and kerosene en­hanced the dan­gers of the liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment of th­ese peo­ple and the town.

– the first for­mal meet­ing of the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade was held, and in June of that year, the first of four of­fi­cers for this group were elected at a gen­eral meet­ing. From this point, the next im­por­tant stage in the de­vel­op­ment of the Brigade was to pur­chase equip­ment. Top of the list was a fire en­gine and, cour­tesy of an ad­ver­tise­ment in the Otago Daily Times on Au­gust 22, 1864, Queen­stown be­came the proud owner of its first ap­pli­ance, a hand-drawn hose reel, on Novem­ber 19, 1864 and was later re­placed by a larger hand­drawn pumper. No longer in ser­vice, this pump can still be seen on dis­play at the Geral­dine Vin­tage Car and Ma­chin­ery mu­seum. 1866 and the first ‘home’ for the Brigade was sourced. Lo­cated on the cor­ner of Bre­con and Sho­tover Streets, and erected at a cost of eight pounds ten shillings, this site was to be the base for the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade for over 100 years un­til the new and cur­rent fire sta­tion was opened in April 1974 on Isle Street. In­ci­den­tally the pre­vi­ous site is now known as the Brian Smith Me­mo­rial Park in hon­our of this fire fighter who was a mem­ber of the brigade for many years. 1929, and another mile­stone was achieved by the Brigade when it re­ceived its first mo­torised ap­pli­ance. This was the Re­nault, which can be seen on dis­play in the Wanaka Trans­port Mu­seum and is one of only two of its kind in the world: the other is housed in the Na­tional Mo­tor Mu­seum in the UK. As Queen­stown grew and ex­panded, thus came the need for a sub­sta­tion to pos­si­bly be lo­cated at Frank­ton. From the ini­tial meet­ing held in March 1973 to gauge sup­port, it wasn’t un­til May 1979 that the fire sta­tion lo­cated in Frank­ton’s Dou­glas Street was of­fi­cially opened, and the mem­bers be­gan to re­spond to what was a grad­u­ally in­creas­ing num­ber of call­outs. Since those very early days, many per­son­al­i­ties, fire en­gines, fires and tragedies have shaped the his­tory of the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade, en­abling the or­gan­i­sa­tion of to­day to achieve the mile­stone of be­ing the sec­ond old­est fire brigade in New Zealand to be manned by vol­un­teers. The Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade has over­come many chal­lenges through th­ese years, in­clud­ing a lack of a for­mal brigade through the years of 1873 to 1879 and a spell where it went into re­cess from Novem­ber 1909 to April 1917, but from 1900 to 2013, it proudly records over 300 names as past mem­bers in ad­di­tion to the 40 mem­bers who cur­rently make up the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade and the 20 who to­day form the Frank­ton Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade. The 150 year cel­e­bra­tions will be an op­por­tu­nity to salute those mem­bers, both past and present, who are recorded as be­ing part of the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade.

Book pub­lished on his­tory

Acomprehensive his­tory which pro­files the con­tri­bu­tion the Queen­stown Fire Brigade has made to the his­tory of Queen­stown has been writ­ten and pub­lished to co­in­cide with the 150 year cel­e­bra­tions. The brain­child of QVFB sec­re­tary Kather­ine La­mont and writ­ten by Jenny McLeod, ‘Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade – cel­e­brat­ing 150 Years of Vol­un­tary Ser­vice 1863 – 2013’ tells of the many fires and in­ci­dents which not only re­flect the his­tory of the brigade, but also high­lights the his­tory of the town and which have, over time, con­trib­uted to its growth and de­vel­op­ment. From an ar­son by a lo­cal green­gro­cer seek­ing insurance which de­stroyed an en­tire block of build­ings in Bal­larat St back in 1882, through to the ‘Fat Badger’s’ fire, which also de­stroyed the World Bar in 2013, and the mile­stone of the brigade’s first fe­male fire fighter, Vicki Pad­don who joined the Brigade in 1989, the fires, events and mile­stones of the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade are nu­mer­ous and varied. In the midst there are tales of cat res­cues and fires, ri­val­ries and com­pe­ti­tions, awards and friend­ships, ap­pli­ances and equip­ment which to­gether form the ba­sis of the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade. This is the his­tory of the Queen­stown Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade and also of Queen­stown it­self: in­sight­ful and en­joy­able read­ing and an insight into the im­por­tance of a com­mit­ted fire-fight­ing ser­vice.

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