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Station Focus: Thirroul Fire Brigade - A Brief History 1923-2023

*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the centenary of the Thirroul Fire Brigade. The following is dedicated to the station's continuing history. 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 Thirroul

The Town of Thirroul began their requests for fire protection as early as 1916, with the Thirroul Progress and Ratepayers Association writing to the Board of Fire Commissioners of New South Wales, the New South Wales Fire Brigade’s (NSWFB) governing body, to establish a Volunteer Fire Brigade. Whilst the Board of Fire Commissioners extended the Fire Brigades Act in 1910 across the state of NSW, Thirroul was not included under the act at that time and hence the Board could not build a Fire Station, let alone create a Brigade or supply equipment.

Over the coming years pressure would grow for greater protection in the area, with the President of the Board of Fire Commissioners visiting neighbouring Bulli in 1922 and hearing a variety of concerns for the need for adequate protection on either side of Bulli, in the areas of Woonona to the south of Bulli as well as Thirroul and Austinmer to the north.

Thirroul Fire Brigade, c. 1930s. (Museum of Fire collection)

The need for fire protection in Thirroul was directly witnessed when a horrific fire occurred in October 1921 in Hannaford’s Mercery and Drapery in the evening after everyone had left the premises. As a result, the fire went unnoticed until it was too late. Police and people of the town attempted their best to thwart the flames but were unsuccessful, with the fire then spreading to Lea’s Stationary, Fancy Good and Confectionary business as well as Irving’s Lolly and Tobacconist Shop. Bulli Fire Brigade were called and stopped the fire from progressing any further to the mostly wooden structured town. The damages, however, were still incredibly significant, with the total damages reaching over £4,000 (approximately $359,849 today).

Whilst suggestions were made for the site of Bulli Fire Station to be more centrally located so that it could be closer to Woonona, the concerns for Thirroul and Austinmer, particularly after the October 1921 incident, meant that the fire district was extended to incorporate the northern towns and was named “Bulli Fire District”. It wouldn’t be long until Thirroul would gain its own station and own brigade though, now that it had been incorporated into the fire district.

On the 1 January 1923 Thirroul Fire Brigade was inaugurated with the first firefighters stationed there being Captain and Engine Keeper K. Higgins, and volunteer firefighters R. T. Rankin, J. Roberts, H. R. Davies, W. T. Lacey and H. Reay.

With a Brigade established Thirroul now needed a Fire Station. The crew initially established a temporary home in a motor garage measuring 3m by 4.5m on the main road, which is now called Lawrence Hargrave Drive, where they were equipped with a hand-hose reel, hose, and minor appliances. By July 1923 the Board of Fire Commissioners purchased land for a new station for £250 (approximately $22,743 today) on the corner of Prince’s Highway (now Lawrence Hargrave Drive) and Arthur Street.

Plans for Thirroul Fire Station, 1924 (Museum of Fire collection)

The following year on 4 June 1924, the Board of Fire Commissioners accepted the tender of Mr. G. Hunt of £773 (approximately $ 71,121 today) for the construction of a new brick Fire Station on the new site. The new Fire Station was occupied on the 4 September 1924. The station was to include an engine-room, recreation room, dressing room, bathroom, and storeroom, and would be equipped with one hose reel, 300m U.L hose and four scaling ladders. In addition, equipment was also installed at Captain Higgens Store on the other side of the railway line including, a hose cart, three lengths of hose, standpipe, and branch. Telephone communication was also installed between Bulli Exchange, Thirroul Fire Station, and Captain Higgen’s residence. The new station was formally opened on 7 November 1924 on the same day as the new Bulli Fire Station opening, with Chief Officer Jackson being present for both openings.

For the next forty years Thirroul continued to operate out of the same Fire Station, then in September 1973 tenders for the building of a new Fire Station were advertised. While the new station was being constructed temporary accommodation was organised in a former bus depot at 210 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul. The contract for the new Fire Station was signed on 22 January 1974 with demolition being completed by 11 February. Due to heavy rainfalls the new station was not completed until 18 November 1974 and was occupied from 22 November at a cost of $64,572 (approximately $593,493 today). The official opening was held on Saturday 1 February 1975 with representatives from the Board of Fire Commissioners attending including, A. C. McMurtie, M. Stolmack, and C. W. Tregear.

Thirroul Fire Station, c. 1989. (Museum of Fire collection)

Thirroul continues it’s 100 years’ service to the community and in 2021/2022 responded to 55 fires, 100 other incidents, whilst also performing community safety, preparedness and engagement actions to help the community.

Thirroul Captain's List

K. Higgins (1923-1929)

J. Roberts (1929-1938/1940*)

W. H. Reeve (1940-1967)

L. Hepper (1967-1979)

R. Bland (1979-2009)

H. Privett (2009-present)

Thirroul Fire Brigade, 2023.

- Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team


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