Port Hedland Volunteer Fire Brigade – Early Days
In May or June of 1961, the terminus for the Port Hedland – Marble Bar Railway caught fire in the early hours of the morning. The only fire fighting equipment available to the untrained men, who struggled with the flames, was an old Dodge Fire Engine, which had been rendered obsolete by the Department of Civil Aviation. This piece of equipment was ineffective and the Port Hedland Railway Station was quickly reduced to ashes.
At a future meeting of the Port Hedland Road Board (now Shire), it was decided that an approach to the Western Australian Fire Brigade Board should be made, with the aim of establishing a Volunteer Fire Brigade within the town. It was not until 1964, that a brand new Fire Engine arrived via the State Shipping Service and was handed over to the newly formed Port Hedland Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Some of the inaugural members were; George Gibson Captain, Ernie Bracken, Colin Matheson, Ken Ablett, Bill Larsen, Chris Hilton, Eric Hollands, Lance Rogers, Alf Hicks, Terry Smith and Dick LeQuartermaine. The Fire Engine was housed at the rear of the power house, which was located in Anderson Street and directly opposite Edgar Street. A siren was installed on the roof to sound the alarm, when a fire occurred.
In 1967 a temporary Fire Station was erected in the car park, behind the Esplanade Hotel and this served the volunteers until a brand new Fire Station was erected in Coolinda Street in 1969.
Participating in the Annual Easter Fire Brigade Demonstrations at Fraser Oval in North Fremantle, was part of the format for the Volunteers, so some innovative fund raising was necessary to purchase a ladder stand, hose reel and construct the training track at the rear of the Fire Station. A brand new Holden car was raffled and duly raised the required funds.
By 1970 the Brigade was participating in all events at Fraser Oval and continued for many years after.
Author: Ken Ablett, September 2014