Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
(By R. NOTTLE, Secretary)
It is not very often that a Fire Brigade has the privilege of the Borough Council holding its meetings in the Fire Station. However this was the case in Waihi. By resolution in 1904, the Waihi Borough Council held its meetings in the then newly built Fire Station in Haszard Street, Waihi. Meetings continued to be held there until such time as the Borough Chambers were built on the existing site in Haszard Street.
The Waihi Volunteer Fire Brigade had long been in existence and was a well respected and well formed group of enthusiastic Firemen. The Brigade was established in Waihi on 28th February, 1899, and held its first meeting in Flett's Hotel (now the Rob Roy). Charles Brown was elected its first Captain, being the rank now designated as Chief Fire Officer. T. Wells was the foreman and T. McCarthy the first secretary. The first Fire Station was situated on the north side of Seddon Street, just below the Martha Hill, the site having been donated by J. L. Stevens, one time licensee of the Sterling Hotel. A shed was erected on this small 20ft by 16ft section and the first equipment was a barrow to carry hose and accessories. The big day was 30th November, 1899, when the new Hand Reel arrived. This reel is still held in the present station and is operated by six men, being hauled to the scene of the fire by husky firemen.
In January, 1903, it was recommended that a new station be purchased and later the present site in Haszard Street was obtained and the station erected. On the 11th May, 1903, the Brigade turned out in force, this being the occasion of a monster procession to mark the opening of the Waihi Public Hospital. Firemen donated a cot to the Hospital to commemorate the event. A full roll call in 1904 showed the following members: Captain Brown, Foreman Wells, Secretary Ritchie, Firemen Slevin, Clews, Henderson, Robson, Steel, Malcolmson, Brown, McKay, McGhee, Parkinson, Waybrow, Beeehe, Tibley, Holmes and Izzard.
History was made in 1914 when the Brigade, now under the control of the Waihi Borough Council, bought its first Fire Engine. This was a Darracq, a second-hand machine bought from Napier and capable of high speeds, frequently reaching over the 60 miles per hour. This machine was followed by one of the famous model "T" Fords, later being replaced by a modified model "A" Ford, still being used. The year 1957 saw the arrival of the Brigade's new V8 machine, the best available for modern fire fighting.
Schools and hotels have always fared badly in Waihi fires. By far the biggest fire in Waihi was when the Sterling Hotel, together with Hague-Smith's hardware shop and Hetherington's drapery shops were all razed to the ground on the 23rd March, 1919. The Central School was completely gutted on 27th March, 1931, and the East School on the 14th December 1939. As both of these fires occurred in the early hours of the morning, one being at 2.50 a.m. and the other at 4.50 a.m., all school children were entirely exonerated, although there was much rejoicing at the time.
The Brigade has always been well served by senior officers and experienced firemen. The first Superintendent, under the board was W. E. Roberts, followed by L. Steel, J. Lockington, F. Stamp, W. E. Roberts (2nd term) and finally by the present Chief Fire Officer E. R. Morgan. C.F.O. Morgan has the longest service of present brigadesmen, having been a member for 38 years. He is followed by other Gold Star men, Deputy F. Warn, 33 years, F. Carbutt, 29 years, and the newest of the old brigade, H. Bennie, who completes his 25 years' service this year and will be entitled to his Gold Star. Few Brigades in New Zealand can boast four Gold Star members out of a twenty strong brigade. Waihi is proud of its Brigade and the Brigade is proud to serve Waihi.