Warkworth brigade celebrates 75 years

The Warkworth Volunteer Fire Brigade celebrates its 75th Jubilee this year. Mahurangi Matters reflects on its colourful past.

Chief fire officer Ian Davies says it’s a fantastic feeling for the Warkworth Volunteer Fire Brigade to have reached its 75th birthday. And although the demands are greater than ever, he feels the current brigade is in excellent shape to meet the challenges. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the brigade would typically attend to less than a dozen calls a year. These days, the brigade attends around 300 calls, dealing with fires, motor vehicle accidents and medical emergencies. Ian says to handle all these calls the brigade now has vastly superior equipment and volunteers undergo far more intensive training. This means that today’s volunteers must be far more dedicated than their counterparts decades ago. But Ian says along with the challenges, there are also enormous rewards.

“Being able to give back to your community – that’s the biggest one. But there’s also comradeship and the chance to make new friends. The brigade really is one big family,” he says.

Brigade members with the 1914 Dennis and 1935 Chev.

A roof extension to the fire station in the 1970s.

Fire engines were gradually upgraded over the years.

Warkworth Volunteer Fire Brigade highlights

A fire, which destroys much of the Warkworth central business district, spurs interest in forming a local fire brigade.

Bernad Francis Morris, former superintendent of the Te Awamutu Volunteer Fire Brigade, arrives in Warkworth. Mr Morris reports to the Town Board on the firefighting equipment at hand, chiefly an old hose reel found in an iron shed at Shoesmith Domain. He is later asked to proceed with the formation and training of a Fire Brigade under the control of the Warkworth Town Board.

The iron shed is moved opposite the Methodist Church in Church Hill to serve as the first fire station. The first general meeting of the Warkworth Fire Brigade is held.

The Town Board purchases an engine from the North Shore Fire Board – a 1914 Dennis. It is later replaced by a 1946 Ford V8 and a 1935 Chev.

A siren is mounted on the fire station to summon firefighters. It is activated by the Post Office. The first firefighter to reach the station uses a direct line to call the Post Office and find out where the call originates.

The current fire station is constructed next door to the iron shed.

Shortage of funds means firefighters receive no boot allowance.    

The brigade acquires a new Commer fire engine.

All members of the Brigade are issued with pagers to alert them in case of an alarm.

The first female firefighter joins the brigade.

The Commer, which served as a rescue tender, is replaced with a 1982 V8 International. Soon afterward it is replaced with a 1990 Dennis.

The fire station is renovated.

The station acquires its first Iveco 931 appliance with a separate diesel engine to drive the pump.

The station’s Dennis fire engine is replaced with an Iveco 937 that can carry 2000 litres of water.

The Iveco 937 is replaced with a new Iveco Type 2 – the station’s current rescue tender.