Celebrating 75 years of history and development

Gisborne Urban Fire Brigade is celebrating its 75th birthday this year, alongside CFA.

Celebrating 75 years of history and development

Credit: Gisborne Fire Brigade

The town brigade for Gisborne and New Gisborne was established at the end of October 1944, following meetings with the Chief Officer and Deputy Chief Officer of the Country Fire Brigade Board.

The approved brigade was set up with 15 men, with others as reserve members. The following elected officers:

  • Captain: A. Gardiner
  • Lieutenant: A. Keane
  • Foreman: G. McKim
  • Secretary: A. Boardman

In October 1945, members raised the need for suitable fire station for Gisborne. It would take several years before a site was obtained at the corner of Brantome and Hamilton Streets.

The brigade's Annual General Meeting in October 1956 was attended by 25 members, with the group given the news that they would soon receive a new 450 gallon tanker to be stationed in Gisborne for use across the region.

The brigade's equipment at the time also included 52 beaters, 11 rakes, 34 knapsacks and two burners.

The following April the station was complete - ahead of schedule - and was officially opened on Friday 26 April 1957 by Harold Kane, MLA.

Credit: Gisborne Urban Brigade

Lifelong members Bruce Harker and Tom Ritchie remember a lot of key milestones for the brigade.

“A couple stick out for me," Bruce said. "One has to be our successful running team which was formed in the late 60s.

“And also the building of our current station and Group headquarters in 1984 following the devastating Ash Wednesday fires in 1983.

“I remember the purchase of the brigade’s first community-owned tanker in the late 80s,” Mr Ritchie added. 

“The brigade has achieved so much over the last 75 years.”

Credit: Gisborne Urban Brigade

Today the brigade has about 50 members with 30 of them active and regular firefighters.

“We average 200 calls a year.” Brigade captain Sam Strang said. 

“I think the biggest change throughout my nearly 30 years in the brigade, is our community engagement and fire safety.”

“We have moved in a positive direction other than just fighting fires, we now prevent fires through educating kids at school visits and other community visits.”

“Also our fire safety messages through digital platforms and our strong relationship with local media play a big part in the overall picture of firefighting.

“The evolution of our vehicles and fire equipment has come a long way, especially now with our state of the art medium pumper.

“Another significant piece of history for our brigade was our involvement with the Black Saturday fires not only on the day but also the weeks following."

Mr Harker said the brigade has had at least eight members over the years go on and become senior operational staff for the CFA.

“Bill Johnstone is an Operations Manager, Noel Heddington went on to be an Acting Chief Officer, Rowan Luke is currently an Assistant Chief Officer, Alan Bennett went on to be back then an RO (Regional Officer), Matt Gardiner is a commander I believe in the Kerang area, Alan Ranken is now a commander and John Athorne went on to become a Ops manager and is now retired,” Mr Harker said.

“To have at least seven Gisborne members go on to become senior manager's within the Authority is quite impressive I think.” 

Author: Holly Penketh