*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 Ropes Crossing Fire Station in 2016. 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.
What's in a name?
Munitions Factory Brigade (1942-1946) – The current Ropes Crossing Fire Brigade has its origins in the Brigade that was employed to oversee the fire protection of the Munitions Factory located in St. Mary’s during World War Two.
St. Mary’s Factory Area Brigade (1946-1982) – The Brigade was now retained and came under the auspice of the Board of Fire Commissioners NSW. The Brigade took its name from its fire district.
Dunheved (1982-2016) – In the late 1970s-early 1980s the Brigades name was changed from St. Mary’s Factory Area to simply Dunheved, the name that had come to be associated with the area. At the same time St. Mary’s Town Brigade became simply known as St. Mary’s.
Ropes Crossing (2016-Onwards) – When the Brigade moved into new premises on Forrester Road the Brigade adopted the name given to the new Station, Ropes Crossing.
A Brief History of No. 78 Ropes Crossing
It wasn’t until during World War Two that greater development came to the area that is today’s Ropes Crossing, when the Government acquired the land of Dunheved for a Munitions Filling Factory. Two Fire Stations were established in the Factory Grounds under the direction of a trained Officer of the State National Emergency Service who also oversaw the Factory’s Ambulance Service. This role oversaw the Brigade from 1942-44 at which time Civilian defence precautions were relaxed and a civilian Fire Officer was employed. The man to fill this role was Edwin Francis Armstrong who retired from the NSWFB to take up the position.
When the Factory was closed in 1946 the Fire Brigade was subsequently no longer in operation, however with the establishment of many new local factories it was felt that a Brigade was still needed (at the time the St. Mary’s Town Brigade was the nearest Brigade with the Fire Brigades Act extended to the area in 1946). Following a request from the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction the Fire Brigades Act was further extended to the Factory Area at the end of 1946. It was thus in November 1946 that the St. Mary’s Factory Area Fire Brigade came into being with Edwin Armstrong in the role of Captain and they made use of the existing Factory Fire Station.
Unlike when the Brigade was run by the Factory and the members were full-time Firefighters, many now found themselves in need of finding new employment as they were now ‘retained’ Firefighters. The Munitions Factory had kept Firefighters busy with 44 incidents in 1944 alone, however the St. Mary’s Factory Area Brigade (as they were now known) were not kept as busy until the 1950s when the number of Factories and surrounding dwellings had increased. By the mid-1950s the Dunheved Industrial Estate (also known as St. Mary’s Factory Area) was a thriving development, the first of its kind in Australia, home to over 44 industries that employed over 3,600 people.
In 1957 the Munitions Factory was re-opened, however the original Fire Station now found itself outside of the designated Factory Area. Initially the St. Mary’s Factory Area Brigade were expected to attend fires in the Factory Area, however they were only allowed on the grounds when fire was taking place which meant they were unable to familiarise themselves with the area and delayed reaction times were experienced. Eventually an Australian Defence Force Fire Brigade and Station were installed on the site.
In 1982 the name of the St. Mary’s Factory Area Brigade was officially changed to Dunheved. This began a period of change for the Brigade with a permanent crew attached to the Station in 1997, making it part-retained and part-permanent.
In 2008 the Brigade then left the original 1940s Station and moved into Factory premises on Plasser Crescent. Today, the Brigade has moved into new premises on Forrester Road and has adopted the name of their new Station, Ropes Crossing.