Fire engines’ evolution from hand and horse-pulled days
A large red vehicle with flashing lights, sirens – what else could it be but a fire engine?
And, if you like fire engines, there have been a great many that have served Timaru over the years.
A modern Scania fire appliance or similar vehicles operated locally are significantly advanced from the early appliances operated by the Timaru Fire Brigade. While early appliances were hand-pulled or horse-drawn, motorised appliances made an appearance in the early years of the 20th century.
The first pair of fire engines were Dennis, the first received in 1915 and the second in 1921. The 1914 Dennis was also equipped with a wheeled escape ladder capable of reaching up to 18 metres high. A Model T joined the fleet in 1926.
After giving 20 years’ service the 1914 Dennis was replaced by a more modern Bedford appliance. Then, with the coming of World War II and the perceived prospect of invasion, a Fargo truck and several trailer and bucket pumps were assigned to Timaru to be manned by the Brigade and temporary personnel enrolled in an Emergency Fire Service (EFS).
In the 1950s a high-rise ladder appliance joined the fleet. The Commer truck with a Merryweather ladder, originally of a type reputedly designed for the invasion of Normandy, arrived in 1951.
Its arrival couldn’t have been more timely as it was worth its weight in gold when it was employed to fight a fourth-floor fire in the CML building before it was even officially commissioned into service.
A Ford V8 with front-mounted pump and a purpose-built Dennis F8 fire appliance came in 1954. The
Dennis, later known as ‘‘Old No 2’’, served Timaru until 1982.
In the 1960s TK Bedford appliances joined the fleet, followed by an automatic transmission ERF Snorkel and an International in the 1970s.
The New Zealand Fire Service had been established at a national level in 1976 and over the decades since new units have replaced the old on a regular basis, with some of the appliances being passed on to local volunteer brigades. The 1980s saw the arrival of Mitsubishi fire engines, followed by Scania’s in the 1990s and 2000s, including the Bronto Ladder unit.
Quite a few images of these appliances are featured in the South Canterbury Museum’s exhibition Timaru Brigade. Have a look and find out more about the Brigade’s history over the last century and a half.