*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the opening of the new Parkes 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 Creation of a Fire Brigade in Parkes
In November 1877, a meeting was held to form a fire brigade in Parkes and by the end of the following year this had come to fruition. One of the first reports of the brigade attending a fire was in November 1878 when they are described as “working like tigers” to extinguish the flames of a fire in the Tailor’s shop.
During this period of time the brigade was subsidised by the various insurance companies who wished to protect their interests in the town. A board of control was established which operated in a similar manner to the way the Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s Board operated in Sydney, however in the case of Parkes there was just one brigade. The Mayor was initially the head of this board and a shed building was erected in 1879 at the rear of the Court House where the equipment was then stored.
In 1902 the Fire Brigades Act was extended to Parkes and the Board received legislative endorsement to manage the affairs of the brigade. While the original brigade consisted of seventeen men it was now regulated down to just twelve.
In 1909 the new Fire Brigades Act which saw the creation of one state-wide governing body saw the Parkes Fire Brigade come under the auspice of the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW. In this year the old Court House was also acquired which provided more space for the brigade.
The original station was built on land owned by the justice department. By 1919 the land was considered to be too small and would not be suitable for any upgrades due to the gradient of the land. The Board attempted to have some of the courthouse land resumed for fire brigade purposes so a new, larger station could be erected. The Board received no objections from the Department of Lands and so the land was added to the Board’s site. The new station was officially reported as completed by the officer in charge of construction after he inspected the site on 21 June 1924. The new station was constructed at a cost of £1,564 (approximately $130,000 today) and was located at the corner of Court and Hill Streets.
Pictured above: Parkes Fire Station and Brigade, c. 1920 I Parkes Fire Station, c. 1930
The New Parkes Fire Station
In 2011-2012 major renovations took place in Parkes aging fire station and in March 2017 it was announced that Parkes would receive a new state-of-the-art fire station. Work began in 2019 and was completed in 2020. This new retained facility is equipped with two engine bays and is located directly behind the existing station. This means that Parkes Fire Brigade have been occupying this area of Parkes since 1878. The new station has additional clean and dirty areas which will lessen firefighters exposure to carcinogens. It also has a training room, gym and additional space. The station became operational in mid-2020 and was constructed at a cost of approximately $2 million.
According to the latest FRNSW Annual Report, for the year 2018-2019 Parkes Fire Brigade have attended 180 incidents of which 59 were fire related.
Parkes Fire Brigade at Firefighter Championships
Parkes Fire Brigade have been involved in Firefighter Championships, or “demos” as they were once known as early as 1886.
Fire Brigade Championships as we know them today, began as ‘Demonstrations’ where local fire brigades demonstrated their skills to the local community. Events in the “Demo” are based on real situations that Firefighters face daily and are designed to highlight their talent and expertise.
Parkes Fire Brigade sent a team to the State Demonstrations at Forbes (1905), Orange (1906), Dubbo (1908) and Corowa (1909). After the formation of the NSW Fire Brigade in 1910 it was not until 1932 that Demos returned. Parkes Fire Brigade attended every demo, except for three, until 2002 when they made their last appearance.
Some of the most memorable highlights of Parkes time in championships were when they finished 5th at the State Championship in 1958 and dominated the portable extinguisher event from the 1950s to the 1970s.
We look forward to sharing more of these histories with you each month!
-Museum of Fire Heritage Team