*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the opening of the centenary of Narrabri Fire Brigade at an event held in 2018. 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.
A Town Ravaged by Fire
Narrabri is traditionally thought of as a quiet town, however it has had a long history of devastating fires that led to the establishment of a fire brigade. There were two "great fires" that were key incidents that saw a brigade established. These were: just two major fires that devastated the community.
11 December 1897 – Known as the “Great Fire”, this blaze occurred in the early hours of the morning and resulted in an entire block from Everingham’s Club House Hotel to the Bank of Australasia being totally destroyed. While the rest of the town was saved but the damage was estimated at over £20,000 (approximately $3 million today) with ten businesses and eight residences destroyed.
12-13 March 1917 – Also known as the “Great Fire”, this incident was a main catalyst for the establishment of a Fire Brigade in Narrabri. Occurring just before midnight on 12 March the fire appeared to have started in the premises of Geo Long and Co. General Store and within no time had spread along the street that, almost twenty-years previously had been guttered by fire and so this part of town was considerably new. There was nothing that could be done to stop the fire and within a short time once again Maitland Street was a scene of destruction. The losses faced by the town were estimated at £40,000 (approximately $3.7 million today).
The Fire Brigades Act is Extended to Narrabri and a Fire Brigade is Formed
On 20 September 1917 Narrabri Council wrote to the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW asking if it was possible for Narrabri to be brought under the Fire Brigades Act. On 3 October 1917 the Board recommended that the Act be extended to Narrabri and on 15 October an Inspector arrived in the town to meet with the town’s officials. They agreed to give a portion of the Town Hall site for the erection of a Fire Station.
Owing to this progress, on 2 November 1917 the Fire Brigades Act was officially extended to Narrabri. A garage was also rented from the North Western Co-operative Motor Co. on Maitland Street, to house the manual engine for 2/6 per week (approximately $11.60 today). This was to be used until a new Station could be built.
Ten men were appointed to the Volunteer Brigade; D. Callaghan, E. Jenkins, A. Nation, S. Grey, A.W. Wooden, G.R. Parker, C. Wyatt, W. Delaney, T.J. Logan and J. Cunningham. The Brigade officially came into being on 1 January 1918 and D. Callaghan was appointed Captain, having previous volunteer firefighting experience elsewhere, and E. Jenkins was appointed Engine keeper. Their first meeting was held on 2 January 1918.
By June 1918, new and better temporary premises had been secured for the Brigade. Some difficulty was experienced by the Brigade in occupying their original temporary premises as the owner often locked the shed, which meant that the brigade could not get in to get the appliance in a hurry. In one instance they even had to break the lock which was met with distaste from the owner. Shortly after this new premises were sought. The large shed they now occupied was formerly used as a motor garage and so was well suited to accommodate a fire appliance. Located on Maitland Street the new premises were occupied from 24 June 1918.
Narrabri’s Fire Station
When the Narrabri Fire Brigade was formed they agreed to occupy temporary rented premises until the time that a new purpose built Station could be constructed. On 3 October 1919 a portion of land on the site of the Town Hall was re-dedicated for Fire Brigade purposes. In early 1921 tenders were called and on Saturday 24 September 1921 the new Station was officially opened by the Board of Fire Commissioners. This station is still used by the Narrabri Fire Brigade today.
-Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team