*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the centenary of Blayney Fire Brigade at an event held during FRNSW Open Day on 15 May 2021. 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.
Over the years, Blayney residents learnt of the devastating effects of fire. Calls for the establishment of a fire brigade were raised as early as 1902, but the different attempts proved to be unsuccessful.
In 1920, Blayney was afflicted by two major fires which completely destroyed a general store and business premises. In response to these fires, Blayney Municipal Council wrote to the Board of Fire Commissioners requesting that provisions of the Fire Brigades Act of 1909 be applied to the Municipality1 On 7 September 1920 the Board visited Blayney to assess the need for fire protection in the area. They identified a number of immediate fire risks, but noted that the town would be well equipped for a brigade as the water supply was reticulated with good pressure.
While negotiations were in process, Blayney Fire Brigade was formally established on 1 January 1921. In the meantime, the brigade operated out of a shed at the back of the Post Office which housed a reel appliance. The owners of the property, the Lyndhurst Shire Council, agreed to sub-let a portion of the premises to the Board of Fire Commissioners by their tenants, A. U. Hill & Co, at the reasonable price of five shillings per week (worth approximately $20 today). The site was occupied by the newly formed brigade in January 1921.
Original members appointed to the brigade include: G. Woodford (Captain and Engine Keeper), A. Bevian, B. Bevian, R. H. Kitchener, H. E. Abbott, H. W. Luck, H. R. Ritchie, L. C. Cameron, A. W. E. Porteus, and O. G. Neil.
The Board of Fire Commissioners continued to investigate new sites for the construction of a purpose-built fire station at Blayney. By 1924, they had acquired land at the corner of Church and Osman Streets for £80 (worth approximately $7,000 today). Three years later, in 1927, the Board accepted the tender of Messrs Finn & Scobie for the construction of the new station, which was built at a cost of £1552 (approximately $130,000 today).
In June 1928, Blayney Fire Brigade moved into their new station. One month later, the Board officially opened the station during a severe snowstorm.
With a new station built to fit industry standards of the time, Blayney Fire Brigade was lacking in a modern appliance. Therefore, on 14 December 1932 at 6pm Captain Woodford met the new Garford Pumper at the railway station to collect it after it had been sent to Blayney by rail. Six firefighters assembled for their first drill with the new appliance and after testing it they found it was in good working condition.
Theatre Blayney, 11 September 1937
The Theatre Blayney building was modernised by a local farmer at a cost of £6,000 (approximately $585,000 today). It was located in the old School of Arts building and became a popular gathering point for the community.
At 3am on Saturday 11 September 1937, Blayney was woken by the sound of an explosion so powerful that it cracked the wall of the adjacent Presbyterian Church. Captain Woodford and several of the Blayney firefighters were quickly on the scene but were hampered by poor water pressure. Despite this they were able to save the film equipment. The building however was not so lucky. The walls had been blown out of their frames by the power of the explosion and the subsequent fire destroyed what was left.
Blayney Fire Brigade reported a strong smell of petrol during the fire, so arson was the suspected cause. A local resident was charged with the crime but never convicted.
Environmental Treatment Solutions Fire, 20 March 2018 (story by Captain Anthony Kearney)
Our first female firefighter joined the station on 12 February 2018 (97 years after the brigade was established). The Environmental Treatment Solutions fire was Casey’s first fire after completing phase 1 training at Hume on Monday 19 March 2018.
It was a drill night for the station, and I was walking around the pump with Casey, showing her what each pocket on the pump contained and giving her a general overview of the pump. I said that in my 23 years at the station that we get called to a lot of AFA, and not to get too disappointed as every now and then we get a road crash, house fire, or medical assist call and we need to maintain a sense of urgency for every call.
An ambulance went past lights and sirens wailing, and Casey commented we might get called to something. I told her not to get her hopes up, and as it turned out the ambulance was on a call to a road accident near Bathurst. Ten minutes later the call out system activated at the station to a fire at ETS, crew prepared and got on the road. Crew weren’t concerned as this was the fourth call in recent times to this facility to small fires and hazmat incidents. I have never seen someone so excited, and eager to be called to a fire as Casey. The excitement turned to utter disbelief as we came round the corner past Nixion Transport. This was not just a major fire for the brigade but turned into a major hazmat operation as well.
Celebrating 100 Years of Service to the Community
On the 15th May 2021 the Museum was proud to attend the centenary celebrations of Blayney Fire Brigade. Below are some pictures from the day.
-Research and Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team