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Station Focus: Casino Fire Brigade (1883 - 2019)

*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to commemorate the centenary of Casino Fire Station at a ceremony held on Saturday 6th April 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 the Casino Fire Brigade

In mid-August 1883 it was reported that a fire brigade had been formed at Casino. A number of influential local businessmen were elected as office-bearers while a staggering FOURTY men comprised the ‘working’ members of the brigade. This number was double that of most brigades in operation at this time across NSW. In some instances, it was actually more than triple the number.

Not much more is known about or heard of from this brigade and by the turn of the century it appears that the brigade had ceased to exist. In 1905 the Government allotted £30 (approximately $5,000 today) for the use of a fire brigade. As there was no brigade currently in operation one had to first be formed before the money could be utilised. In June 1905 a meeting was finally held to discuss the situation and 14 men joined the newly formed brigade. They were J. Askew, P. McLean, E.E. Riley, E.F. Andrews, A. Messenger, C.B. Hammond, W. Fay, A.D. Campbell, E.J. Pollock, F. Whiteman, I. Pollock, D. Rayner, J. Maloney and W.B. Riley. Maloney was elected Captain and D. Rayner was appointed lieutenant.

Just three months later however, when a major fire occurred in Mackney’s Workshop the brigade was nowhere to be found. By the time the fire was discovered it had taken hold of the building, which had attracted a crowd with around 40 of these people joining in fighting the blaze. They could do little to save the building though, so they focused upon stopping it spreading to other buildings, which they were successful in doing. The losses amounted to between £300-£400 (approximately $46,000-$61,500 today). But what of the brigade? Well due to some bureaucratic issue they had been unable to claim the grant promised by the Government and so nothing had progressed after the initial meeting some months previous.

This recent fire did ignite a drive in the town to finally take action and so in November the brigade came together to discuss matters and organise for regular drills to take place. They also decided to apply to the local Council for the erection of a fire station. This was agreed to by the Council who set about building a station on the Town Hall premises. It was reported in February 1906 that the station was almost complete and in April 1906 a bell was hoisted into place upon a high platform at the station. The station was located behind the town hall (now the ANZ building) on Simpsons parade in what is described as a dead-end street.

In 1907 the State Government granted £1,000 (approximately $150,128 today) for the future erection of a fire station on a site adjacent to the town hall. The site, with a value of £900 (approximately $135,115 today) had been provided by the local Council. Despite these steps however the grant was held in suspension pending the extension of the Fire Brigades Act to Casino, which was expected within a few years.

The introduction of the Fire Brigades Act across NSW in 1910 was met with varying degrees of support amongst those already established brigades. Effectively the Act meant that all fire protection (for those areas where the Act was applied) were now to be under the auspice of the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW. This body had its origins in the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board in Sydney which was established in 1884 to oversee the fire protection of Sydney.

Casino Fire Brigade outside the original fire station which was located behind the Town Hall. Photograph taken 1909.
Casino Fire Brigade outside the original fire station which was located behind the Town Hall, 1909.

Casino Fire Brigade Over the Years

To better maintain the brigade’s new motor appliance, it was decided that a new fire station was needed for Casino. In 1918 work began on what would be Casino’s second new fire station in under a decade. The station cost £1,988 (approximately $180,000 today) and was said to be the first of its kind. The ground floor was designed to meet all the needs of the operational brigade, plus sleep up to four men, while the upper floor provided comfortable living quarters for the resident officer in charge. A similar station was to be erected in Dubbo the following year.

In March 1919 the brigade transferred the appliances into the new station and on 4 April 1919 it was officially opened by the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW. The old station site, including the building and land were sold for £1,650 (approximately $149,000).

Following legislation changes in the early 1950s, many articles appeared in the local newspapers stating that the brigade would return to being solely volunteer as it was becoming too costly to keep permanent staff at Casino. The fire station was now not equipped to support the permanent residence of that many staff and so some changes were made. While the upstairs living quarters remained adequate for a married firefighter the quarters downstairs, that were originally to be used only on occasion, were converted into permanent quarters for a single man. Both upstairs and downstairs were then occupied by retained firefighters while all the officers sought accommodation elsewhere.

As a result of the legislation changes and the number of permanent staff now needed at Casino the upkeep of the brigade was becoming costly. Around this time, it was becoming common for station’s that were maned by one permanent officer to have the role of Captain re-instated as a way to alleviate the pressure on the officer and reduce the number of permanent staff needed. As such this policy was adopted for Casino with two of the officers removed and A. Clark appointed Captain from late 1955.

The role of Station Officer remained in place at Casino until 2018 when David Mooney (the SO) was transferred to Lismore.

As part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of Casino Fire Station a restoration program was undertaken at the station. The renovations were completed in October 1994 at a cost of $150,000.

Casino Fire Brigade outside the fire station, 2018. Pictured (L to R):

Front Row: Dean Roese, Adrian Stokes, Robert Cox (Deputy Captain), Craig Casey (Captain), Greg Miller (Deputy Captain), Rohan Coe and Ben Summers. Back Row: Katrina Snape, Jeremy Larcombe, Dan Smith, Mark Allen, Sonya Marks and Mark Johnston

-Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team


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