Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 32, September 1988
By C W Malcolm
The above photograph, taken in 1926, is of great historic value. The original, enlarged and framed, hangs in a place of honour in Paeroa's Fire Station. Special thanks are due to Mr Graham Watton, Managing Editor of the Thames Valley Gazette for permission to use his photographic reproduction which appeared in the GAZETTE of 23 February 1988.
For 26 years, the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade had fought the town's many fires with no better equipment than a hand-reel, a vehicle on two six-feet diameter wheels, the hose coiled on a revolving drum on its central axle, the remaining equipment attached on various brackets A shaft protruded from the front of this contraption enabling it to be pulled to the scene of the fire by two firemen. Others might push from behind. At times an obliging motorist would take the reel in tow and at greater speed, travelling over the pot-holed roads of those days, it would shed part of its equipment which were picked up by firemen following on their bicycles.
There was also a ladder kept in the fire-station and if it was found necessary at a fire, two men were sent running for it. In spite of such antiquated equipment, the records of the Brigade reveal, with few exceptions, a remarkable list of "saves".
However, the firemen themselves knew that something better was urgently needed for the town. Finance from the Borough Council was limited so the firemen themselves went from door to door seeking contributions towards a fire engine. A Model T Ford chassis was purchased and on this the fire engine shown in the photograph was built in Brenan and Co's Paeroa workshops by the Brigade's Deputy-Superintendent, Ernest W Moore and was installed in the fire station, Hall Street, on 26 May 1926. At that time two firemen were accommodated in sleeping quarters on the station and became the first drivers. They were Firemen Arthur Scott (theatre projectionist) and C W Malcolm (school teacher).
The names of the entire Brigade on the engine at that time are as follows:
Front row (seated): Messenger Tom Burke, Firemen Herb Robinson, Clive Nield, Arthur Scott, Harold Moore, Secretary (later Third Officer) C W Malcolm, Superintendent (Chief Fire Officer) Wm J Moore.
Back row (standing): Firemen Ernest Martin, Harry Wilton. Ray Nield, Charles Rolton, Wm E Ward and Deputy Superintendent Ernest W Moore.
This, however, was not Paeroa's first fire engine, though its predecessor is lost in the mists of history. When the Brigade was formed on 23 October 1895, unsuccessful attempts were made to obtain a steam fire engine. Instead of it, the Brigade purchased fifty buckets! But on 28 June 1896 a fire engine arrived from the Fire Brigade Supply Company of Napier. A rare photograph of it can be seen on page 87 of the Ohinemuri County Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Journal 1945. This vehicle was drawn by a horse and contained a pump, man-operated by long handles supplying the water to the hose. Though it was stated to have been an efficient machine and was taken on occasion as far as Karangahake, strangely enough it was sent back to Napier in November of 1898 apparently because of the Brigade's inability to keep up the payments "for the rent of the engine".
From this date (1898) until 1926, Paeroa's fire-fighting equipment amounted to its hand-reel and detached ladder, Present day provision of equipment in the new up-to-date fire station far surpasses the 1926 fire engine and its poorly furnished corrugated iron shed but it was an historic advance when volunteer firemen had no longer to run with their equipment to fires and the photograph captures and records the men and the moment.
STOP PRESS: See also the photograph on page 12 [see below - E]
Captain Wm J Moore is shown on the extreme left and next to him is Secretary Dave McWatters, well known Paeroa business man.
(Photograph supplied by C W Malcolm)