Station Focus: No. 57 Wentworthville Fire Brigade (1920-2020)
Updated: 6 days ago
*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the centenary of Wentworthville Fire Brigade. Should you wish to use any of the information and pictures provided we ask that you please reference the Museum correctly and contact the Museum for permission where applicable.
The Establishment of a Fire Brigade in Wentworthville
Back on the 5 February 1920 when Wentworthville Fire Brigade operational the local area was described as an area consisting mainly of open land, bush and orchards. The buildings were considered to be few and far between, with most scattered over the area rather than being concentrated around a central hub.
The original members of the brigade were: Captain Frank McDowell, Frank Lane, Archibald Stapley, Frederick Langsworthy, Colin Brown and Frederick Harrison. A garage on Second Street, owned by the newly appointed Captain, had been secured for use as a temporary station and a hose reel was to be supplied for a brigade staffed by six partially paid firefighters (also known as volunteers).
Wentworthville's First Purpose Built Fire Station
In February 1935 construction began on a new fire station for Wentworthville. The new station located in Garfield Street was estimated to cost £1,030 (approximately $100,302 today) and became operational when the brigade's lease on the previous premises ended on Monday 27 May 1935. Operations were officially transferred to the new station and it was also officially opened by the President of the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW that evening.
The Introduction of Permanent Staff
Following a campaign by the local Council additional firefighters were added to the Wentworthville Brigade in 1940 and house bells were also installed for all members to speed up response times. It was around this time that there was a noticeable increase in the number of fire calls being received by the brigade.
In 1963 local politicians amped up their campaign to better equip the brigade by beginning a push for a permanent fire station at Wentworthville. The surrounding area was growing exponentially and while the politicians acknowledged the skill and dedication of the existing brigade, they mused that Wentworthville was no longer a “sleepy hollow” and so required greater fire protection.
In response the role of Captain was replaced by the addition of a permanent Station Officers to the brigade. Captain Harrison had retired in 1960 and had been replaced by his son who agreed to serve as temporary Captain until a permanent officer joined the brigade. He held this role until 1964 when permanent staff were finally attached to the brigade. The first four officers assigned to Wentworthville Fire Station on the four platoons were SO Belmer, SO Pascoe, SO Wootton and SO Ross.
Due to the full-time working shift patterns of the retained brigade a problem arose as to the availability of the retained staff. It became a recurrent problem that most of the brigade, who were shift workers, would be rostered on to work at the same time which caused an issue in brigade availability. At the same time the local area was developing and so in 1975 four permanent firefighters were assigned to the brigade, joining the existing four station officers. This meant that every platoon now had one SO and one permanent firefighter. At this same time there was a promotional campaign run in Wentworthville to recruit more local men with daytime availability to join the retained ranks of the brigade.
In 1980 an additional 4 permanent firefighters were attached to the station which meant that each platoon was now staffed by one SO and two permanent firefighters. At this time there were still 10 retained firefighters attached to the station, however over the coming years this number would be reduced. The last retained firefighter at Wentworthville was P. Graham who resigned in June 1982.
In 1985 an additional permanent firefighter was added to each platoon which saw the brigade take the form we still see today with a SO and three permanent firefighters per shift.
Wentworthville's New Station and Recent Activities
To coincide with this change in the composition of the brigade a new station was in order. Rather than demolish the 1930s built station though, Wentworthville Fire Station became the first NSWFB station to have a new fire station built around it. One of the reasons for this different approach was to save having to re-house the brigade during the construction phase. Generally, if a new station was to be built the Board would have had to rent temporary premises nearby but as the building was constructed around the original station this was not required and operations could continue as normal. Despite this at various points throughout the build there were inconveniences such as the appliances having to be parked outside and the brigade had to go to Parramatta Fire Station to use the hose pole for a period as well. While this type of renovation and re-build was also undertaken at Penrith Fire Station, it did not remain a common practice for the NSWFB.
In 2008-2009 Wentworthville Fire Brigade became an accredited primary rescue unit.
According to the latest FRNSW Annual Report (2018-2019) Wentworthville Fire Brigade responded to 2,060 incidents, of which 256 were fire related. The brigade also engaged in 158 community activities including fire education and community awareness events across the diverse multi-cultural society.
Featured below are the current Wentworthville Platoons (correct as of February 2020 when the book went to print).
We hope you enjoyed this first edition of our Station and Brigade History series!
-Museum of Fire Heritage Team