station site is extremely historically significant in its own
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by SFF John Johnston
The original brigade (1934)
On the 7th February 1934 a group of public spirited citizens met in Sollits Billiard Room in Steyne Avenue to form the Plimmerton Volunteer Fire Brigade. Prior to this there was no organized fire fighting unit in the area despite some disastrous fires.
At this meeting George McDermid was appointed Superintendent of a brigade that had no uniforms or equipment of any kind and bearing in mind that the country was in the middle of the Great Depression there was no prospect of outside assistance at that time.
Minutes of the meeting held on 2nd July 1934 record that "members should hold themselves in readiness to answer any emergency that should arise." That "emergency" turned out to be the Second World War. The Brigade came under the control of the E.P.S. and had by that time acquired its first appliance: a hand cart complete with bucket pumps. Firefighters were allocated a set of overalls and an E.P.S. armband and were also assisted in manning this fine appliance by military reservists stationed in the district. The hand cart was housed in a garage in Steyne Avenue. A large piece of railway iron suspended from a pole in George McDermids garden provided the means of raising the alarm.
George McDermid resigned in 1942 and was succeeded as Superintendent by Bert Bailey.
It was around this time that the Brigade bought from funds of unknown source, a Chrysler Straight Six converted to a fire appliance. This fine vehicle met its demise when its brakes failed on a run down Airlie Road.
In October 1944 a meeting was held to discuss disbanding the Brigade. Fortunately this did not happen and Jack Lagden was appointed Superintendent thus beginning a long period of dedicated service to the Brigade. It was through Jacks drive and enthusiasm that the fire station was built on its present site and this was opened in 1955, construction having started in 1952. Jack Lagden served until his death in May 1966.
The Brigades main business in the early Fifties consisted of dealing with the many grass fires along the main trunk line caused by errant hot coals from the steam trains. However in 1954 the Brigade was involved in fighting the most disastrous fire in the history of Plimmerton. The business block at the corner of Steyne Avenue consisting of four shops, a picture theatre and a house was totally destroyed by fire. Appliances from Porirua, Paekakariki, Khandallah, Johnsonville and Wellington attended the fire.
Later that same year the brigade received instructions in how to conduct itself during the Royal Tour Period in an order from Dominion Fire Service Chief T.A. Varley:-
God Save The Queen, and God help you if your house was burning down! The brigade's traditional attitude to outside authority was nicely captured by local cartoonist Eric Heath.
The Brigade was supported in the Fifties and Sixties by the Hutt County Council. They provided funding for appliances but the Brigade members were also constantly engaged in fund raising during this time. Great support was also given by local Lions Clubs who provided rescue cutting gear and other much needed pieces of equipment. Local residents have also been generous when called upon to support the Brigade.
In 1973 the Brigade came under the control of the Porirua Fire District and the loss of autonomy lead to some friction amongst the hierarchy. Since then however Fire Service restructuring has made Plimmerton a Fire District and the Brigade is now to an extent master of its own destiny and remains proud of its unique culture.
The dedicated service of many fine locals, Jack Lagden, Morrie and Wicky Barlow, John Holman (who was awarded the George Medal for his bravery at the Tangiwai Rail Disaster) Keith Askew, Ron Casey and Ian Capewell to name but a few is typical of the many Volunteer Brigades which exist throughout New Zealand.
An Honours Board was recently dedicated on Station naming all those who have given over five years service to the Brigade.
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