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Firefighters from Port Macquarie Fire Station celebrate 50 years of services

Published: 10th December 2007

NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) firefighters past and present and the community gathered at Port Macquarie Fire Station on Saturday 8 December to celebrate 50 years of exceptional service to the community of Port Macquarie.

NSWFB Assistant Commissioner Mark Brown, Director of Regional Operations, was joined by the Mayor of Port Macquarie Hastings Council, Councillor Rob Drew, as he paid tribute to the firefighters of Port Macquarie during an official ceremony held at the Hay Street station.

"The Port Macquarie Fire Brigade has changed significantly since it began in December 1957 when there were nine volunteers and one Dennis fire engine. Today the station has 19 permanent firefighters and 14 retained firefighters who service the city of Port Macquarie and the surrounding area.

"Firefighters have the latest in firefighting equipment and technology and respond to a wide range of incidents including house fires, car accidents and incidents on the Hastings River and surrounding waterways," Assistant Commissioner Brown said.

For Senior Firefighter Steve McWhirter and his father Albert ‘Mate’ McWhirter it was anextra special occasion – Mr McWhirter was a member of the original Port Macquarie Fire Brigade.

Senior Firefighter McWhirter was an on-call firefighter in Port Macquarie for eight years before becoming permanent and was part of the first permanent crew to start work at the station in January 1999. He said that he was honoured to be a part of the brigade his father helped to establish 50 years ago.

"Dad was a member of the very first crew at Port Macquarie Fire Station and was a volunteer firefighter for over 30 years. I grew up with the brigade culture, so it was a natural progression for me to join the NSWFB as a retained firefighter and then to become a permanent firefighter," he said.

Mr McWhirter, who was awarded the Queen's Medal in 1977 and participated in numerous Championship teams, said that it was a proud day for him.

"To see Steve here today, 50 years after it all began, is a real honour. The NSWFB is a great institution and one that I am proud to have served with."

Assistant Commissioner Brown and Chief Superintendent Rob Lindsay (Area Commander, Regional North) presented a memorial medallion to firefighters past and present including Keith Hardaker who was the Captain of Port Macquarie's original fire brigade.

Assistant Commissioner Graham Dewsnap, Director of Specialised Operations, unveiled a plaque recognising Port Macquarie Fire Station's achievements at the NSWFB Firefighter Championships. Firefighters from the station have participated in every State Championship since 1964, have won the competition six times and won the inaugural National Firefighter Championship held in Coffs Harbour in 2003.

Assistant Commissioner Brown said the anniversary was an opportunity to thank all the firefighters past and present who have served the Port Macquarie community since the Brigade was formed 50 years ago.

"Firefighters play a vital role in our communities both when emergencies occur and in preventing fires from starting in the first place," he said.

A plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of the station was unveiled by Assistant Commissioner Brown during the official ceremony.