*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the centenary of Mosman Fire Brigade. 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 Establishment of a Fire Brigade in Mosman
The Fire Brigades Act was extended to Mosman on 3 December 1893 and following a realignment of borough boundaries a portion of North Sydney was included in the Mosman Council area. In 1895 however, questions were raised by the Metropolitan Fire Brigades (MFB) Superintendent Beare over the validity of the Act being in place in Mosman as the region was considered to be only sparsely populated and thus there was considered to be no benefit in Mosman being under the Board’s jurisdiction, as the amount of money raised from rates in Mosman were not enough to warrant the creation of a brigade. For the year 1895 there was also only one recorded instance of fire, which further gave support to this argument. Despite this thinking the Act was not repealed and in 1898 a hand reel was sent to Mosman Council Chambers.
Development in Mosman only increased with the turn of the century and so the new century got off to a great start for Mosman with land secured by the MFB to erect a new fire station on Myahgah Road, next to the new Council Chambers. The following year the station was completed at a cost of £936 (approximately $143,510 today) and a volunteer fire company was organised to occupy the station from 24 January 1901.
Ten years later plans were being formulated to erect a new station in Mosman. In 1911 a visit was made by members of the Board to Mosman and negotiations were then entered into with local Council for the sale of the current site. It would be a number of years until a new station was built though.
Subsequent to the growth and development of Mosman the council requested in 1914 that a volunteer firefighter (a member of the retained staff) be transferred to the permanent staff. This request was agreed to and so Captain Charles Field became the first permanent firefighter at Mosman Fire Station from 1 January 1915. A more senior firefighter from Neutral Bay Fire Station was actually assigned to be transferred to Mosman Fire Station and take command, as Field’s experience and training was not said to be of the caliber expected of a permanent firefighter in command of a fire station. Following outcry from residents though, Field maintained his position in charge of the station and he then moved into the station to enable him to perform his duties. As the station was never designed to house a man permanently though, this put significant restrictions on the retained firefighters performing such things as watch duty as Field and his large family (he had seven children aged 22-4) all lived in just the stations living room, one bedroom and kitchen (two of his children slept at a camp at Balmoral Beach each night). As a result, Field moved himself and his family into a nearby cottage.
Mosman’s New Fire Station
Despite finding a new place for his family the need for a new fire station in Mosman remained high on the agenda of locals. Finally, in October 1916 the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW purchased land in Military Road for the sum of £875 (approximately $88,800 today).
W. Martin erected the new station and the official opening was held on 16 April 1919, prior to the brigade occupying the new building on Thursday 18 April 1919 when the appliance, horses and all gear were removed from the old station. It wasn’t until 13 May 1919 that the station was considered to have been fully operational though.
It was conveniently in 1919 that electric lighting was installed in Mosman and so this was also included in the new fire station. The old fire station premises were then sold to the local council for £750 (approximately $59,391 today).
With the erection of the new station, there was local unrest as it was announced a firefighter who outranked Firefighter Field was to be placed in command of the station. Though he had become a permanent firefighter he was still known locally as Captain Field, as he had been for the last 18 years. With the opening of the new station a second permanent firefighter was therefore attached to the station, this time with the rank of station officer.
Mosman’s Fire Brigade Over the Years
In 1966 it was decreed that upon the resignation, retirement or termination of the services of individual retained firefighters at several Sydney stations, they would not be replaced. These stations were Mosman, Willoughby, Hornsby, Lane Cove, Narrabeen, Lakemba, Guildford, Bankstown and Fairfield. In 1974 the approved strength of Mosman Fire Station was two station officers, two permanent firefighters and four retained firefighters. By the end of the following year, 1975, the brigade comprised mainly of permanent firefighters. The last retained firefighter at Mosman Fire Station was Ernest Field, grandson of Captain Field. Ernest had joined the brigade in 1948 and spent 37 years as a retained firefighter in the Mosman Fire Brigade until his retirement in 1985.
In 2003/2004 major work was undertaken at Mosman Fire Station to allow for the continued use of the historic building as an operational fire station. According to the latest FRNSW Annual Report (2017-2018) Mosman Fire Brigade responded to 500 incidents. This included 61 hazardous material responses, 61 rescue calls, 49 fire responses and 34 natural disaster responses.
-Museum of Fire Heritage Team (2019)