Following the example of the Auckland Volunteer Fire Brigade set up in 1854, Christchurch’s first fire station was opened in Market Place (Victoria Square) in 1860. Those who first volunteered had the immediate use of a manual fire pump whereas Auckland started with just buckets.
In 1868, Christchurch got its first career fire fighters – meaning that all fire houses would be permanently manned. Ten years later, in a fire station built on Lichfield Street, the United Fire Brigades of New Zealand was formed. This meant better liaisons between brigades which were now country wide.
Known as ‘Hook and Ladder’ companies, our early fire fighters faced some of New Zealand’s worst fires. In the early 1870’s, a steam powered pump was imported from England. Nicknamed the ‘Extinguisher’, its arrival in the city was a huge event. The public were welcomed to view the new addition, the brass proudly brought up to a fine shine! To keep the ‘Extinguisher’ company was other fire fighting equipment known as the ‘Deluge’ and the ‘Dreadnought’.
Today, New Zealand has over 1700 career fire fighters and over 8300 volunteers. On their uniforms are the words ‘Whakaratonga Iwi’ which means ‘Service to the People’.
*Image courtesy of the Canterbury Public Library – http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/ – File Reference CCL Photo CD 2, IMG0074