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Station Focus: South West Rocks Fire Brigade - A Brief History 1978-2019

*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to commemorate the opening of South West Rocks Fire Station at a ceremony held on Thursday 13 June 2019. 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 South West Rocks

In February 1974 the Macleay Council wrote a letter to the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW requesting that a fire brigade be established in South West Rocks. Investigations then revealed that the immediate area was home to around 845 while the larger area, which included Arakoon, Spencerville and New Entrance, was home to a permanent population of over 1,500. During peak holiday periods this number grew by more than 3,5000 which furthered the cause for the establishment of a Brigade in South West Rocks, especially as the nearest brigade was located in Kempsey, over 35.5km away.


Following consideration, it was determined that the area had a significant fire risk, mainly from the two oil terminals located in Philip Drive. These were owned by Golden Fleece and Shell and provided fuel for all areas of NSW north of Newcastle. As a result, large numbers of road tankers passed through the area which posed a significant fire danger. It wasn’t until 1975 however that the town was able to demonstrate that it had a permanent population of over 1,500 and therefore qualified for the establishment of a brigade.


Thus, as part of the NSWFB 1977 building program it was decided to erect a fire station in South West Rocks. Land was purchased in Sturt Street at a cost of $10,118 (approximately $56,470 today). The contract was awarded to Deranja Company from Baulkham Hills in Sydney who then completed the station at a cost of $65,362 (approximately $364,800 today).

The old South West Rocks Fire Station [Museum of Fire Collection]

For a period of eleven days from 9-20 January 1978 Station Officer Alexander Bower (#2390) visited South West Rocks under orders from the Chief Officer for the purpose of finding applicants to form a fire brigade. Sixteen men applied to join the brigade but as the approved strength of the brigade was just twelve (including a Captain and Engine Keeper) only this amount were selected. The original brigade comprised: S.R. Deveridge (Captain), K.C. Costello (Engine Keeper), R.J. Hill, T.S. Fairbairn, A.J. McKay, R. Meehan, P. J. Kemp, R.G. Lipscombe, D.E. Laws, S.A. Murphy, J.P. O‘Hara and N.J Winn.


Stan Deveridge was selected as Captain owing to his twelve years with the brigade in Sydney, including two as a Retained Firefighter at Revesby Fire Station where he was a founding member of that brigade as well. After spending time at Kogarah and Riverwood Fire Stations he left the NSWFB with the rank of senior firemen after which time he relocated to South West Rocks where he purchased a general store. Deveridge was also a qualified Proto operator which was considered a bonus for the new brigade. Deveridge would go on to hold the position of Captain with the South West Rocks Fire Brigade until 30 November 2001, retiring at the age of 60, bringing up 23 years of service with the brigade. The Engine Keeper, K.C. Costelleo, also had previous brigade experience having been a member of the Barraba Brigade for just shy of six years.


As the brigade didn’t officially come into being until April 1978 several personnel changes were made prior to the brigade becoming active. While J.P. O’Hara left the district, Engine Keeper K.C. Costello and R. Meehan had to be replaced. Therefore R.S. Cronberger, M. Geronimi and S.D. Cameron joined the original South West Rocks Fire Brigade. Existing member T.S. Fairbairn was then appointed Engine Keeper.


On 17 April 1978 the brigade occupied their new station quarters and the following day the No. 369 Ford D200 arrived from Sydney with equipment, as well as furniture for the station. Upon the arrival of the appliance the brigade conducted their first training exercises and the station was set to officially become operational on 1 May 1978, at which time the Fire Brigades Act was to be extended to the new fire district. The application of the fire brigades act was delayed until 16 June 1979 as back in October 1975 the Macleay Shire (where South West Rocks was located) was amalgamated with the Kempsey Shire and due to confusion, the new fire district was not listed in the gazette. This was corrected the following month and, in the meantime, according to brigade records, the brigade was officially inaugurated as from 1 May 1978, without the fire district having been gazetted.


An official opening of the new station was held by the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW on Saturday 24 February 1979.


South West Rocks Fire Brigade Today

In October 2018 the first sod was turned on the new $2 million fire station to be built at South West Rocks. The new station on Lindsay Noonan Drive comprises a double engine bay and improved training facilities. The new station became operational at 4pm on 8 April 2019.


According to the latest FRNSW Annual Report for the year 2017-2018, South West Rocks responded to 78 incidents of which 13 were fire related.

The new South West Rocks Fire Station, 2019 [Museum of Fire Collection]

No. 449 South West Rocks Appliance List

Year

Model, Make

Number

Type

1978

Ford D200

369

Pumper

1984

International 1710B

574

Pumper

2002

Isuzu FTR-800

894

Pumper

2005

Isuzu FTR-900

564

Pumper

- Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team

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