Yamba Fire Station Celebrates 60 Years
Before 1957 fire fighting services in Yamba were limited by the landscape. The area between the Harwood ferry crossing and Yamba encompassed cane fields and large expanses of bush and swamp, criss-crossed by channels and narrow dirt tracks, all of which impeded any rapid response to fires. Frequent bushfires in the Yamba township area over the years and fires within buildings, which could only be fought with a bucket brigade, prompted locals to sink, at their own expense, test bores to locate reliable sources of water. Bush Fire Brigades were formed in 1943 at Yamba and Palmers Island but the enthusiastic volunteers had little equipment and no fire engine.
While waiting for the N.S.W. Board Of Fire Commissioners inspection report, in October 1950 the Ritz Guesthouse in Queen Street was burnt to the ground and a guest died. A few sites for the proposed fire station were selected but, despite public meetings, no action was taken. There were widespread bushfires in February 1952 that threatened homes on the riverbank and burnt several buildings including the Clarence River Anglers’ Club. However it was not until July 1952 that the Board of Fire Commissioners finally approved the formation of a brigade. It took three years to select the current site on River Street for a Fire Station. A further two years passed before the funds were obtained and a timber-framed building with a corrugated fibro roof was finally built in 1957.
Meanwhile, Harwood Shire Council had provided 6 knapsack spray pumps in 1954. The first fire engine, with 250 gallons per minute pumping capacity and with 1700 feet of canvas hose, was sent up from Sydney at the end of January, just in time for the official opening in February 1957. In the same year Yamba finally achieved a reticulated water supply.
Equipment and uniforms have changed considerably over the years. Early protective gear consisted of brass helmets, woollen trousers, a topcoat and a pair of rubber wellington boots; cumbersome outfits that became even heavier when wet. In 1970 a five-mile siren was installed and soon after a new Bedford fire engine arrived. The Fire Station itself was extended in 2009, when the addition of a training room reflected the expanded role of fire fighters, now known as Fire & Rescue NSW fire fighters. The latest fire engine to arrive, in 2015, is capable of dealing with far more than fires – accidents, chemical spills and other emergencies – and is often used to raise public awareness and educate students on fire and other safety issues.
In recognising the importance of our fire brigade the museum holds a number of significant items in the collection, including uniforms, fire equipment and photographs.