• Museum of Fire Heritage Team

Station Focus: Bulli Fire Brigade (1918-2019)

*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to commemorate the centenary of Bulli Fire Brigade at a ceremony held on Friday 15 March 2019. 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 Formation of a Fire Brigade in Bulli

The first steps for the formation of a fire brigade in Bulli came in 1913 when the local shire approached the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW with the intention of having the Fire Brigades Act extended to the Bulli urban area and for assistance in forming a brigade. Two years later the local council finally furnished a complete report of the town (including information regarding water supply and the urban environment) for the Board. By this time the council did have a few firefighting implements and a shed had been erected for use as a fire station.

On 18 October 1918 the Fire Brigades Act was extended to the Bulli-Woonona Shire .The shed premises were reported to have been in a dilapidated state as it had been some time since the structure was used and no one had been overseeing its ongoing maintenance since no fire brigade was ever formed. None the less repairs were to take place so that it could be occupied from 1 January 1919 by the new Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW Brigade, once formed.

On 14 November 1918 a meeting was hosted by the Board at the old shed fire station with the purpose of selecting candidates for the formation of a brigade. On 21 November 1918 the Board approved those candidates proposed and measurements for uniforms were sent to the Brigade’s storekeeper. The original members of the Brigade were T.J. Conley (Captain and Engine Keeper), G.W. Smith, W.W. Poppett, J. Butler, T.A.E. Ball, S. Colliss, W.F. Rees, A.E. Ball, W.J. Narbeth and N.H. Mann.

Thomas Conway was selected as captain owing to his good character, occupation as the local turncock (the man responsible for controlling the town’s water supply) and due to his previous experience as a firefighter with the Wollongong Brigade (1911-1917). Until the time that a motor fire engine could be made available to the new brigade, Captain Conley offered his own motor car for the use of the brigade in emergencies. He proposed that his vehicle be used to tow the hose reel to and from fires.

First Class Firefighter R. Griffiths from Petersham Fire Station was tasked with providing initial instruction to the newly formed brigade from 2 January 1919. He was recommended for the role after having conducted himself well the previous year when he was appointed to a similar role with the establishment of a brigade at Port Kembla. Griffiths remained with the brigade for three weeks and returned to his duties in Sydney on 27 January 1918.

Bulli Fire Brigade, 1927 A Fire Brigade “Queen” competition was held amongst local brigades to raise funds for the local hospital and Mrs. Conley (the Captain’s wife) was the Bulli Brigade’s candidate.

Bulli Fire Brigade’s New Fire Station

In 1920 the Brigade was approached by the Woonona Citizens Association with the request for three lengths of hose to be stored at Woonona. As the Brigade was called the Bulli-Woonona Fire Brigade this seemed a reasonable request, especially as Woonona was a considerable distance from the fire station. This also became a factor in the Board’s search for new land upon which to build a new fire station. It was hoped that they would find a more centrally located site.

In 1922 the President of the Board visited Bulli himself to finalise the issue of building a new Fire Station. While it was suggested that a more central site be chosen, specifically one closer to Woonona, the issue of the fire protection of the new areas of Thirroul and Austinmer were also raised with it decided that some form of fire protection was required. In October 1921 a major fire occurred at Thirroul causing £4,000 (approximately $314,267 today) damage and destroying three businesses as well as a number of adjoining residences. As a result they were incorporated into the fire district with the name of the district changed to simply Bulli. It seemed that the area expected to be covered by the Brigade was only growing and so the Board recommended that a motor appliance be supplied to assist in this task. The motor was also considered essential to the Brigade due to the hilly nature of the region making it hard for the men to pull the reel.

Despite this progress, two years later the issue of the growing district was still being discussed, specifically in regards to Thirroul and Austinmer. Progress had been made though with a site on the Princes Highway selected for the new station, while the old station building was sold for £10 (approximately $795 today). At the same time land was purchased at Thirroul for a new station, thus there would be two stations located within the Bulli Fire District.

The new Bulli Station was scheduled to be completed on Monday 3 November 1924 and so a new Garford appliance was despatched from Sydney with First Class Firefighter C. McCarthy to instruct the brigade on its use shortly after.