Tawa Fire Bri­gade 70 years on

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

Ahouse fire in Linden in 1944 was a cat­a­lyst for the for­ma­tion of Tawa’s first fire bri­gade. For­mer chief Peter Lock­ery, a veteran of 36 years with Tawa Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade, said that be­fore 1944, fires in the Tawa Flat area had to be at­tended by an ap­pli­ance from the Porirua Lu­natic Asy­lum.

‘‘It wasn’t an ideal sit­u­a­tion back then,’’ he said. ‘‘After the house fire, Alan Melville, a builder, got to­gether a group of guys and they went to a meet­ing of Makara County Coun­cil [ which over­saw Tawa Flat].

‘‘On Oc­to­ber 12, 1944, they set up in a garage on the site where Mexted Mo­tors is [in Main Rd].’’

More than half the 26 mem­bers who signed up in 1944 had re­signed within 18 months, Lock­ery said, sug­gest­ing the bri­gade needed to en­sure it had suf­fi­cient num­bers to jus­tify be­ing set up.

The move to Lyn­d­hurst Rd, where the bri­gade is now, took place in 1946. There was one truck, called the ‘‘ba­nana wagon’’, Lock­ery said. All the gear for the bri­gade was sur­plus army gear and scrounged equip­ment.

Con­trast that to to­day, with the bri­gade hav­ing two new ap­pli­ances, mod­ern equip­ment and all the train­ing that fire­fight­ers could ask for, Lock­ery said.

Much of the work of Tawa bri­gade’s early work was gorse fires – of­ten started by dis­carded cig­a­rettes and sparks from the new rail­way line.

Changes came when Porirua City was es­tab­lished in the 1960s and paid mem­bers were based there.

The New Zealand Fire Ser­vice was set up in 1976, lead­ing to more for­malised rules and dis­tricts, Lock­ery said.

About that time, light in­dus­try took off in Tawa and Porirua, so ware­house and res­i­den­tial fires be­came more common.

‘‘There was a real spate for a while in the 70s,’’ he said. ‘‘We were prob­a­bly get­ting one big fire ev­ery six months. Now it’s one a year.

‘‘We used to get a lot of false alarms at Porirua Hos­pi­tal and Aro­hata, which was an­noy­ing. We’d be get­ting 450 calls a year in the late 1970s.’’

Re­cruits of­ten used to be sin­gle men from the rugby club, but as Tawa’s pop­u­la­tion boomed, mar­ried men and women were seen as more de­sir­able vol­un­teers.

That was still the case to­day, said Tawa’s chief Michael Far­rand, Lock­ery’s son-in-law.

The bri­gade was at its ca­pac­ity of 30 vol­un­teers now, Far­rand said.

Re­cruit­ing has not been a prob­lem lately, though one of the re­quire­ments is to live within about 2km of the sta­tion.

‘‘We’ve got a great, ded­i­cated team,’’ Far­rand said.

‘‘It’s a fam­ily, with our youngest mem­ber 20 and the old­est 65. We have no hand- me- down equip­ment – one of the trucks is 12 months old.’’

Far­rand said he could have an ap­pli­ance on the road within 3.5 min­utes of a call­out – there is a mod­ern com­puter sys­tem at the sta­tion that tells him who is avail­able and each vol­un­teer has a pager.

Tawa’s first re­sponse area is any­where along Kenepuru Dr, Tawa and Gre­nada North.

Though the mod­ern ser­vice would at­tend fires, now it was more car ac­ci­dents and com­mu­nity work, Far­rand said.

He said he joined to ride fire trucks, but be­ing able to make a dif­fer­ence in his com­mu­nity made giv­ing up his time worth­while.

Photo: TAWA VOL­UN­TEER FIRE BRI­GADE

Old: Tawa Flat Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade turnout in the late 1940s.

Photo: DEREK QUINN

New: More than 1000 peo­ple at­tended the bri­gade’s open day two weeks ago.

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