Fire en­gines’ evo­lu­tion from hand and horse-pulled days

The Timaru Herald - - Weekend -

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.

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