This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to commemorate the centenary of Cooma Fire Station. 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 Cooma Fire Brigade (1917-1918)
On 3 September 1917 it was reported that Cooma Council was to approach the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW with the aim of having the Fire Brigades Act extended to Cooma. The population of the town was now 2,000 and as many smaller towns already had Fire Brigades, it was thought that it was time Cooma did as well.
On Tuesday 11 December 1917 the Board of Fire Commissioners sent Inspector Dadd to Cooma to obtain candidates for a Fire Brigade and to secure temporary storage for the Brigade’s appliances. Eight men were selected and it was agreed that a station would be built in Commissioner Street, near Vale Street. As the Fire Brigades Act did not officially come into effect in Cooma until 1 January 1918, Inspector Dadd explained he would return in the New Year to instruct the Brigade. A newspaper report some thirty years later would state the birthdate of the Brigade as 2 January 1918 as this was when the men first came together to meet after the Act came into effect.
It was with great enthusiasm that the newly formed Volunteer Brigade welcomed an instructor from the Board of Fire Commissioners to Cooma within days of the Act coming into effect. The Brigade’s new hose reel arrived on Saturday 5 January 1918 and their instruction on how to use it began on Monday night. A temporary shed was constructed on Commissioner Street and the instructor was very impressed by the progress of the Brigade across the nightly practices he conducted.
Cooma Fire Brigade – The Early Years
Cooma’s Fire Brigade had a relatively young average age as it was difficult to recruit able bodied men in the town due to many being away serving in the military during the First World War. Therefore, a number of under-aged ‘boys’ were allowed to join the Brigade.
Almost immediately after the Brigade was constituted, there was a push for the Brigade to receive a proper Fire Station. Their temporary premises were considered unsuitable, however when the Board of Fire Commissioners sought a new property in 1919 on which to build a new Station they came up empty handed. Three years later the Brigade were still operating out of their temporary premises, however the Board assured them that a new Station was in progress but they would have to be patient as the Station was going to be built as part of a circuit with new Station’s at Goulbourn and Tumut.
Finally on 31 January 1924 Captain Robinson took possession of the new Station and ended the Brigades tenancy of their original temporary shed station. The new Station was constructed at a cost of £935 (approximately $73, 695 today).
Now with a new Station the town and Brigade turned their focus to acquiring a new, in fact their first, motor appliance. The Brigade was still using their hose reel which they had received back in 1918. The state of the hose reel had deteriorated so much in recent time that many argued a garden hose was more effective. So dilapidated was the state of the hose reel that it couldn’t travel very fast for fear that the wheels would fall off or become tangled. Finally on 14 June 1932 the No. 134 Garford Hale arrived in Cooma by rail.
During World War Two, as a wartime measure, evening watch duty was made mandatory in Cooma. Prior to this no one had manned the station at all hours, however owing to the war a nightly watch from 8pm to 7am was established at the Station.
A Brigade Adapting to Change – The Growth and Development of Cooma and the Fire Brigade
With the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme in 1949 the population of Cooma grew dramatically and therefore the Brigade was facing some difficulty in fully conducting firefighting duties throughout the town. By the 1950s local settlement had extended beyond the town’s original boundaries where reticulated water was not yet installed. This meant that the Brigade could be called to a fire and not have water easily accessible. In some instances the Brigade would have to have in excess of 360m in hose length to reach the closest water source. The Board of Fire Commissioners consequently supplied the Brigade with 1000 feet (305m) of hose to assist their firefighting efforts and approved the authorised strength of the Brigade to be raised from 10 to 15.
Additional issues for the Brigade were the fact that this new area of development was not in the Cooma Fire District and therefore not covered by the Fire Brigades Act. This meant that should a fire occur outside the district the Captain had to obtain permission to attend the fire before responding to the incident, which caused a delay in response times. In 1953 and then again in 1957 the Fire Brigades Act was extended to additional parts of Cooma, which meant the fire district also expanded. In 1949 the population of Cooma was 2,240. In 1956 the population had grown to in excess of 8,000.
In May 1970 Cooma was included in the Board of Fire Commissioners NSW upcoming building programme, owing to the dilapidated state of their station. On 13 September 1972 the Board approved the erection of a new Fire Station in Cooma on the existing Station site. On 4 February 1974 the Board then accepted the tender of F.G. Adams and Sons for $53, 414 (approximately $420,565 today). Construction on the new station got under way quickly, with the Brigade transferring to temporary premises on Egan Street on 13 March 1974, so that the old Station could be removed before construction began on the new station.
By late November 1974 the new station was almost complete and the Brigade was expected to leave their temporary premises on Egan Street and return to the site. This was delayed however, as the clearance of the engine bay did not meet with the needs of the Brigades new appliance and work had to be undertaken to rectify this.
Finally on 22 January 1975 the Brigade’s electrician visited Cooma and transferred all phone lines back from the Brigades temporary premises to the new Station on Massie Street. At 7pm, after the Brigade and appliance was relocated the Station officially became active. The Station was then officially opened by the Board on Friday 23 May 1975.
In 2003-2004 Cooma’s 1975 Fire Station received major renovations to bring the Station up to date. The renovations were offically opened on 13 November 2004. The Station still remains in use today.
According to the latest FRNSW Annual Report, for the year 2016/17, Cooma Fire Brigade responded to 199 incidents, including 71 fires.
- Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team