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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


History of the
Petone Fire Brigade.

On April 30, 1891, a meeting was held in the Chronicle building, presided over by Mr. E. I. Chatwin, there being an attendance of forty. It was decided to form a brigade, and a Committee consisting of Messrs. A. Fraser, W. Henry, G. Sykes, T. Oxenham, J. Gaynor, W. Austin, and J. Carrington, with Mr. E. I. Chatwin as Secretary, was appointed to make all necessary inquiries and report to a future meeting. The Mr. Gaynor mentioned, was the father of the present Superintendent, and grandfather of the present Secretary—the third generation thus entering into the brigade ranks.
The second meeting was held on Friday, June 5, 1891, in the Oddfellows Hall. Mr. E. I. Chatwin occupied the chair, and there was an attendance of twenty-five. The Mayor, Mr. R. C. Kirk, forwarded an apology. The following were appointed as the brigade committee: Messrs. W. Austin, A. Fraser, W. G. Henry, G. Carver, C. Lepper, G. Sykes, J. Piper, T. Oxenham, J. Gaynor, G. White, and E. I. Chatwin (secretary). The secretary reported receiving £19 as donations to the funds. The school committee agreed to the brigade using the old schoolroom once a month for meetings, and also agreed to allow a bell to be placed on the building. The committee also agreed to take over all the equipment owned by the Borough Council, which equipment had been inspected by Messrs. W. Austin and W. G. Henry, and to close nominations for membership into the brigade.
The first general meeting was held on June 26, 1891. The foundation members were: Messrs. W. Austin, J. Gaynor, J. Armstrong, H. Arnold, A. Eraser, J. Gough, W. Henry, W. Hagger,
A. Leavers, G. Carver, J. Carrington, E. I. Chatwin, R. Dowsett, C. Lepper, J. Nuttall, T. Oxenham, L. Parrant, J. Piper, G. White, W. Parrant, J. Wood, R. Simms, F. Pettitt, H. Parsons, G. Sykes, J. Smith, J. Dowsett, J. Roddis, J. Brockelhurst. The first officers were: Captain, W. Austin; Lieutenant, J. Piper; Foreman, J. Smith; Secretary-Treasurer, J. Gaynor.
The water supply consisted of a number of 400-gallon tanks, situated at Bay Street and Sydney Street, supplied by artesian wells, with a connecting main along Jackson Street. Competitions were very popular with the men, but the lack of water at competitions and fires was keenly felt, and the brigade continually discussed this matter with the Borough Council. The brigade procured their first uniforms per medium of a bazaar, in 1892, and in 1893 spanners and belts were purchased. Helmets were felt to be a necessity, and the members themselves paid a deposit of 10/- each towards these, and were refunded their deposit as funds permitted. Side axes were purchased at a later date, these being ballotted for by the members.
The brigade purchased a manual engine from the Wellington City Council in 1892, a 250-gallon machine, which, although very small indeed, was a wonderful asset to the brigade and town, and one can only regard as marvellous the number of 'saves' it enabled the brigade to make, with the help of the citizens at the pump. In 1902, Petone had its own high-pressure water supply. Captain Austin remained in charge until his removal to Wanganui, in 1903, and secretary Gaynor passed away in 1902. The death of Secretary Gaynor, and the transfer of Captain Austin, left a gap in the brigade ranks at the commencement of its service to the town.
In February, 1908, the Fire Board was elected, and in 1912 the present up-to-date station was built. The horse-drawn engine was replaced by a Studebaker chassis, the body for which was built locally. This was later replaced by the present Leyland machine, which is a complete fire-fighting unit. The Board, at a later date purchased a second machine for special service to Koro Koro, and to-day Petone has one of the most up-to-date plants for fire-fighting in New Zealand.
Not only do the present members excel in fire-fighting, but they still uphold the honour of the old brigade in open competition, and during the last four Dominion competitions have won the championship twice and been runners-up twice. Each year the brigade also competes with great success at the Hutt Valley and the United District Fire Brigades Association competitions. The present brigade members, with other citizens of Petone, pay tribute to the brigade pioneers who blazed the trail for them, and whose motto was always "Service." The present officers of the brigade are as follows: Superintendent, Jas. P. Gaynor; Deputy-Superintendent, O. Silbery; Foreman, H. Selwood and A. Shardlow; Secretary, Jas. R. Gaynor.
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Petone Fire Brigade.
Manual Engine and First Fire Station, 1892.

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Present Fire Station.

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