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Station Focus: A Brief History of Murrurundi 1937-2018

*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the brand new station opening for Murrurundi in 2018. The following is dedicated to the station's continuing history celebrating now at the time of writing in 2023, 86 years of history. 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 Murrurundi

Despite the town forming in the 1840s, it would be almost a century before a formalised firefighting body was established in Murrurundi. It is interesting to note that the town of Murrurundi and the surrounding area experienced quite a few major fires since then, however this did not spark any strong movement for the creation of a fire brigade, in stark contrast to many other towns across the state. In many other similar sized NSW rural towns, just one major incident of fire would see residents rush to form a fire brigade, however in the case of Murrurundi it wasn’t until 1937 that steps were taken to form a brigade. This was most likely because it wasn’t until 1937 that a reticulated water system was established in Murrurundi. Once this was in place the town was in a position to ensure that a brigade was equipped to battle a blaze should a fire occur.


In late 1937 the Board of Fire Commissioners visited the town to discuss the possibility of establishing a local brigade with the council and on 25 October 1937 it was reported in the newspaper that it had been decided to establish a ‘permanent’ fire brigade at Murrurundi. Premises were sought in Mayne Street and a brigade was expected to form soon thereafter. The Fire Brigades Act was officially extended to Murrurundi on 29 October 1937 by proclamation in the Government Gazette.


The original members of the Murrurundi Volunteer Brigade were H. Burraston (Captain), A. Wheeler (Engine Keeper), R. Byron, A. Patrige, S. Morrissey, J. Egan and A. Paul. These men received their first instruction as Murrurundi Fire Brigade from the District Officer at 8pm on 28 October 1937. The ex-shop premises that would house the brigade were quickly adapted for the brigades use and the brigade’s Garford motor fire engine arrived within days of the brigade being established. The brigade was officially appointed as the Murrurundi Brigade from 1 November 1937.

The old Murrrundi Fire Station used 1966-2017, this is the brigade's second station [Museum of Fire Collection]
The old Murrrundi Fire Station used 1966-2017, this is the brigade's second station [Museum of Fire Collection]

In the early days of the brigade very few people in the town had access to a telephone, including the Brigade’s Captain. Therefore, in the days before house bells were installed in all members’ homes the Butcher, Mr. Ted Riley, who resided across the road from the station, would receive a call from the exchange when there was an incident and while a member of his family would sound the siren at the station he would run down the street, sometimes in his pyjamas, to notify the Captain.


The Brigade during WWII

In 1943 the Board of Fire Commissioners received a letter from the Department of Labour and National Service (later becoming known as ‘Man Power’ NSW) in regards to the number of men associated with the Murrurundi Fire Brigade. The National Service Officer stated that the Board had authorised the brigade strength of Murrurundi to be six with the reserve strength of an additional six. Despite this, he pointed out that the number of firefighters exceeded this in Murrurundi and as it was a small town he questioned the necessity of having such a large brigade anyway. The National Service Officer asked the Board of Fire Commissioners to look into this so as to ‘free-up’ a number of men who were classed as fit for active service. This turned into somewhat of a saga with the Board accused of effectively ignoring the letter. In response they did make one brigade member available but ‘other considerations made it impossible to make him available’ and so to appease Man Power they made a different brigade member available. Interestingly, the man made available had established himself in the bakery business and therefore, being an essential service, Man Power did not approach him for national military service. After this, it seems Man Power elected to leave the Murrurundi Fire Brigade as it was for the duration of the war.


The Second Fire Station

After the owners of the premises which the brigade occupied refused to conduct any much-needed maintenance for a substantial period of time in the mid-1960s, it was decided that Murrurundi should have a new purpose built fire station. Therefore, land was purchased for £500 (approximately $13,000 today) further along Mayne Street on 6 January 1965 for the erection of a new station (about 165m south of the original station). The total cost of the new station was expected to come to £3,640 or $7,280 in “new money” (approximatley $92,000 today). Construction took place in 1966 without incident until December when the builder declared bankruptcy and left the station with a number of things that still required attention. Despite this the station was occupied by the brigade in April and it was officially opened by the Board of Fire Commissioners NSW on 18 June 1966. To coincide with the opening of the new station the brigade also received a new Dennis motor. Their Garford motor was subsequently sold to Murrurundi Council to equip the Willow Tree Bush Fire Brigade.

Murrurundi Fire Station, 2017 [Museum of Fire Collection]
Murrurundi Fire Station, 2017 [Museum of Fire Collection]

21st Century Recruitment

In 2012 Murrurundi and a number of other stations were identified as the hardest to recruit stations in the state. This meant that FRNSW paid specific attention to recruitment at Murrurundi and carried out a successful campaign to increase recruitment. This was further built upon in 2014 after general recruitment failed to produce enough applicants. To booster the number of retained firefighters in the town, community meetings were held with the support of the council. The main message of these meetings was that “without community support, the future of Murrurundi’s Fire Station is under threat”. As a result of these meetings, nine applications were received to join the brigade and two recruits were appointed almost immediately with FRNSW’s medical team on hand to conduct initial medical assessments at the meeting. Due to the manner in which the drive was enacted, Murrurundi has one of the most gender balanced brigade’s in the state.

Murrrundi Fire Brigade outside their new Fire Station, 2017 [Museum of Fire Collection]
Murrrundi Fire Brigade outside their new Fire Station, 2017 [Museum of Fire Collection]

No. 390 Murrurundi Appliance List

Year

Model/Make

ME Number

Type

1937

Garford 15

64

Pumper

1966

Dennis 250/400

191

Pumper

1969

Dennis F1

286

Pumper

1975

Ford D200

360

Pumper

1983

Ford D200

348

Pumper

1985

Dennis D600

415

Pumper

1992

International 1610A

483

Pumper

2001

Isuzu FTR-800

409

Pumper

2016

Isuzu Class 2

652

Pumper

2017

Isuzu

110

Tanker

The Captain’s of Murrurundi Fire Brigade

H.A Burraston (1937-1938)

A. Wheeler (1938-1940)

S.A. Paul (1940-1943)

W.J. Egan (1943-1947)

A. Grieve (1947-c. 1961)

G. Grieve (1969-1986)

K. Avard (1986-1993)

J. Atkins (1993-2001)

C. Tuckwell (2001-2004)

C. Smith (2004-2015)

M. Power (2015-present)

Long Serving Murrurundi Fire Fighters

30+ Years

K.R. Avard

G.D. Grieve

15+ Years

W.J. Egan

D.H. Avard

T.W. Mitchell

C.W. Hawkins

J.K. Atkins

C. Smith

A.J. Howard

G.P. Williams


-Story by the Museum of Fire Heritage Team

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