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150 years of fire service in Parramatta

Published: 7th November 2009

Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan today congratulated Parramatta firefighters on the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the brigade to serve the Parramatta community.

Mr Whan marked the milestone today at an Open Day at Parramatta Fire Station with Local Member, Tanya Gadiel, NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) Commissioner Greg Mullins and past and present firefighters.

"One hundred and fifty years ago local volunteer firemen were answering the fire call in a horse-drawn fire engine to protect Parramatta's growing population of residents and local businesses," said Mr Whan.

"Today firefighters have high-tech firefighting equipment and vehicles and respond to a great variety of emergencies and situations – not just fires.

"One thing that has not changed is their role in protecting the community and being there to help in their time of greatest need," said Ms Gadiel.

Parramatta fire station attended 2,262 emergency calls in the 2008/09 financial year and was actively involved in community education and fire prevention awareness programs.

"Our firefighters not only attend fires, they deal with rescues and chemical spills, as well as making people more aware of fire safety," Mr Whan said.

"In fact last year firefighters conducted more than 137 fire safety events such as FireEd and RescuEd for school children and the Smoke Alarm Battery Replacement scheme for the Elderly where they assist senior citizens by replacing their smoke alarm batteries.

Ms Gadiel said "150 years of service is an outstanding achievement and I congratulate all of those officers who have served the Parramatta community over the last one and half centuries."

NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins thanked all firefighters past and present for the vital role they play in protecting the community from fires and other emergencies.

"It is important to recognise the contribution of our firefighters, volunteers and emergency services personnel who put their lives on the line to protect others in their moment of greatest need," Commissioner Mullins said.

"I would like to thank the men and women who have worked tirelessly to protect lives, homes and businesses under threat from fire, hazards, accidents and other emergencies – they are a credit to themselves and the wider Parramatta community they serve."

Highlights of Parramatta fire station:
  • Back in 1860 the newly-formed volunteer brigade built its first fire station. It consisted of little more than a single stone building on the western side of Church Street next to the first Court House and was valued at £120.

  • The first full-time crew was led by Station Officer George Alchin in 1913.

  • Without today's sophisticated communications the only way to sound the fire alarm in the Parramatta community was to use a fire bell or by word-of-mouth.  Initially, the church and market bells were used before crews received their own bell and constructed a bell tower.

  • Parramatta firefighters attended a major fire in March 1939 at the Old Victoria Theatre. The fire was so severe it gutted most of the theatre and firefighters narrowly escaped the blaze with minor injuries as the building collapsed around them.

  • Parramatta firefighters responded to the Granville rail disaster on 18 January 1977, when a passenger train collided with an overhead bridge and killed 83 commuters on board.  Senior firefighter A.G. Freeman was the first crew member to climb under a giant slab of concrete to reach survivors and was awarded the NSWFB Medal for Conspicuous Bravery for his extraordinary acts of bravery.

  • The current Parramatta fire station is located on Wigram Street in Harris Park and was officially opened in 1991.

  • The station has a heavy urban fire engine and a 37-metre ladder unit with firefighting capability to rescue people from medium rise buildings and to project water from above onto major industrial fires. The station is staffed 24 hours a day a day, seven days a week by a minimum of six officers.