*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the station opening of Henty Fire Station in 2018. The following is dedicated to the station's continuing history celebrating now at the time of writing in 2023, 119 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 Original Henty Volunteer Fire Brigade (1904-1947)
The settlement of Henty grew in the second half of the nineteenth century but it wasn’t until right at the end of the century that Henty experienced its first serious fire. On 26 October 1899 at around 2:30am the school bell could be heard ringing throughout the town continuously. The bell had the desired effect in waking most of the town and calling them to action, as without a fire brigade all hands were needed to try and extinguish the fire and stop it spreading throughout the town. By the time most of the town arrived at the site of the fire, which was not hard to find as it lit up the night sky, the building was completely consumed by flames. One man who lived in the burning building escaped with only the clothes he was wearing and with the entire building destroyed, so too were all his possessions. It was felt that even if the town had a fire brigade there was little that could have been done to save the building. This was the third fire to have occurred at the residence within a week and so whilst it was considered suspicious a jury later ruled that all evidence was circumstantial.
Following this fire there was not another major fire recorded for a number of years in Henty, however bushfires posed a constant threat to the town and after a series of fires at the start of the century a Bush Fire Brigade (BFB) was formed in 1904. This brigade operated on a year-by-year, season-by-season basis which meant that some years the brigade didn’t actually exist, depending on the severity of the summer. This system appears to have worked for the first decade of the century, however as the second decade began the number of fires within the town of Henty itself increased and without a town brigade there was great concern for the safety of the town. Over the following years the Bush Fire Brigade therefore adapted their purpose and when a fire broke-out in town they would respond. Owing to the number of fires within the town it appears that the brigade did attend more town fires than bushfires, however they were often criticised for the slowness at which they responded to town fires; but this was perhaps because they were better equipped to deal with bushfires and were often on standby when the conditions permitted, compared to a town fire which could occur at any time. Due to this wider role within the community the Henty Bush Fire Brigade was often referred to as simply the Henty Volunteer Fire Brigade. From the time that the brigade was formed in 1904 until around the 1930s-40s the brigade was never formalised and a fire station was never built. Instead the brigade’s equipment was stored at the private residence of various citizens and each year the Brigade’s Annual Meeting was held in the Henty School of Arts.
The Fire Brigades Act is extended to Henty (1947)
In 1915 the Henty Volunteer Fire Brigade (BFB) approached the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW to establish a separate town brigade. This never occurred and over ten years later in 1928 the local council (the Shire of Culcairn) approached the board to have a brigade established within the shire, specifically in the largest town which was Henty. After receiving the costings from the board the council did not proceed with the formation of a brigade and so in 1932 members of the community approached the board themselves but to no avail. In 1936 the board visited Henty with the aim of establishing a brigade, however again this did not materialise at this time and Henty was left without a formalised fire brigade.
In December 1940 two large fires occurred in the commercial centre of Henty which caused great concern to the local people. So severe were both incidents that they were mentioned in the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW Annual Report as two of the most notable fires for the year, even though they occurred outside the NSWFB district. At the time the closest specialised fire brigade was located in Lockhart around 40 miles away (64km). As a result the council approached the board once again to have the Act extended to Henty, however it wasn’t until the mid-1940s that Henty was considered to be enough of a progressive town, thanks to its location on the main line between Wagga and Albury which meant the town was often frequented by farmers from around the district.
Therefore once again, in 1947 the Culcairn Council applied to the board to have the Fire Brigades Act extended to not just Henty this time but also Culcairn. On the 31 October 1947 the Fire Brigades Act was officially extended to Henty and Culcairn with steps undertaken to form a new fire brigade in each town. In September an Inspector had visited Henty to define the Fire District boundaries and located a site to build a fire station. Whilst these steps were undertaken temporary premises were rented at the rear of the Hotel Culcairn (some other sources say it was at the rear of F.W. Rohrich’s store) to keep the appliance for the brigade which arrived in November 1947.
The new Henty Volunteer Fire Brigade officially came into being from 21 November 1947 and due to the financial situation of the town the statutory limit was different to other Fire Districts. Notably no retaining fee was paid to the brigade until 1956 which meant that until this time it was a truly volunteer based brigade. The original members of the brigade were W.W. Paech (Captain), P. Mahon, D. Jacoby, A. Watson, J. Wild, A. Schreiber, W. Rosler, A. Castle, C. Stevens and C. Buschby.
It appears that by 1945 interest in the original Henty Volunteer Fire Brigade (BFB), which had reverted back to being a Bush Fire Brigade, had waned, however it did still exist. The year after the Board of Fire Commissioner’s Brigade was established the Bush Fire Brigade was re-formed, likely because the Captain (W.W. Paech) had been appointed Captain of the new brigade and no doubt a number of members doubled up on the two brigades. Owing to the nature of the town when the brigade was re-formed it appears that many members of the same local families were across both brigades (for example the president of the Bush Fire Brigade was also from the Paech family) and therefore over the coming years there was some level of cooperation between the two bodies. This relationship was further highlighted some fifty years later when the NSWFB set-up a display alongside the Rural Fire Service (former BFB) display at the 2004 Henty Machinery Field Day, one of the largest rural shows in the southern hemisphere which attracts some 60,000 visitors. The event is an agricultural show showcasing the latest machinery, farm equipment, produce, lifestyle and other services.
Henty’s New Fire Station’s (1948-2018)
In January 1948 the brigade moved into new premises constructed on Keightly Street by a Mr. Rohrick. The use of this building as a fire station was secured by the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW for an annual rental price of £39.18 (approximately $2,411 today).
In August 1966 the board entered into a fifty year lease for a block of land on Ivor Street at an annual rental price of £26 (approximately $692 today). The board were allowed to construct a new building on the site and on 4 May 1967 the tender of Allan Lutze for $12,910.39 (approximately $160,819 today) was accepted by the board. The new station was completed by the end of the year with the brigade occupying their new station on 18 December 1967. The official opening of the new station was then held on 15 February 1968.
In 1978 the authorised strength of Henty’s Brigade was increased from a Captain and nine men to a Captain and eleven men. One of the main reasons for this was that when the demonstration team travelled to competitions, only four men were left in the town to cover all the necessary hours of the brigade. On a recent occasion the brigade had been unable to attend a demonstration event because the four men who were to remain in Henty were not all able to have sufficient time away from their employment to ensure there would be enough men to respond in case of an emergency. The increase of personnel by two meant that the brigade could continue to attend demonstrations.
Construction on a new Henty Fire Station began in 2017 after $650,000 was allocated in the 2017-18 State Budget. Prior to this a block of land was purchased in Allan Street and plans for the new station drawn. The new station features two engine bays and a training space for the use of Henty and visiting brigades.
According to the latest FRNSW Annual Report (2016-2017), for the year Henty Fire Brigade have responded to 88 incidents, including nine fire related incidents.
Henty Captain's List
Waldemar Wilhelm Paech (1947-1953)
E. Simpfendorfer (1953-1968)
J. Caldwell (1968 – 1981)
R. Kilo (1981-2015)
P. Tackle (2015-present)
- Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team