History 1950 – 1971 is taken from the Porirua Fire Brigade 21st Anniversary Book. Published in 1971
Before The Brigade
It is a well known fact that fire can be a man’s worst enemy, and on the other hand can be a very good friend, and through the years many people have had to face the horrors of fire virtually unaided. It is very comforting to know that should we be unfortunate enough to have our possessions and sometimes our very lives, endangered by fire, we have a brigade to call on for assistance.
For the residents of Porirua this was not always the case, for in the early years, in fact for all of the history of Porirua, there was never a fire brigade in the district until 1950 (Porirua Hospital did have a small “in house brigade”). Although no records are available the early settlers of the Porirua Basin must have had fires of large proportions as was the case with all new settlements in the early years, yet until approximately 1945 when volunteer units were established at Tawa Flat and Titahi Bay, the nearest brigade in Wellington, and communication and distance plus travelling time were against any assistance from that quarter.
It was in 1950 that a Mr. Ray Moffat had an oven fire in his residence at Station Road and although not a serious fire, it prompted him to think about what assistance was available to him or indeed to any other resident of the area should they suffer a more serious conflagration. This led him to Mr. Alan Melville who was Superintendent of the Tawa Flat Volunteers. This meeting took place in the Tawa Flat Fire Station and after all facts had been resented it was quite clear that a volunteer unit was needed at Porirua to cope with the ever increasing risks which were being incurred in the development of the
intensive State Housing area, not to mention the Porirua Mental Hospital.
Approaches were made to the Chief Inspector for the Department of Internal Affairs in respect of forming a brigade in Porirua, but Mr. Girling-Butcher stated that no further brigades would be formed in the Porirua area. This only blocked Superintendent Melville for virtually as long as it took him to get back to his own brigade. For after consultations with his officers he decided to form an auxiliary unit of the Tawa Flat Volunteer Fire Brigade and station it at Porirua.
A committee of residents was formed for the sole purpose of keeping water holes along the then winding Porirua Stream clear of debris to assist the Tawa Flat Brigade in the event of needing sites for the placing of suction hose. Shortly after this committee was formed, the Porirua Hotel caught fire and Tawa Flat Brigade attended. Blackbee and Bicknell received their introduction to fire fighting by assisting on branches. The hotel was saved by the excellent work of the brigade and giving Blackbee and Bicknell a taste of service.
So it was on the 26th of October. 1950 that the Porirua Auxiliary Unit was brought into being. The foundation members were:- Firemen K. R. Benton, G. W. Bicknell, P. E. Blackbee, R. D. Moffat, R. Palmer and R. G. White. Fireman R. D. Moffat was appointed Senior Man by Superintendent Melville.
Porirua now had a Fire Brigade, at least as far as manpower was concerned. The necessity now was a fire engine. This presented no more of a stumbling block than the formation of the unit itself, for it just so happened that Superintendent Melville owned a Model A Ford that he used in his joinery business and which had served as the first fire engine at Tawa Flat. After stocking it with the necessary equipment, Porirua has its first fire engine. However, as it was necessary to have a fire station and fire stations had to have a site, so in the meantime, the pride and joy was parked alongside Mr. Moffat’s butchery, under tarpaulins.
A turn-out system was devised whereby a single-phase siren was placed on the roof of Mr. Moffat’s residence and information regarding the fire call was rung through to him from the Tawa Flat Station. On receipt of this information the siren was then plugged into the electric stove as the nearest power point and summoned the volunteers to duty.
Like all volunteers, keenness and enterprise were to the fore, and three trips each month were made to the Headquarters station at Tawa Flat for training sessions and meetings.
In March 1957 the Porirua Unit Urban Fire District was constituted and as from 31st March 1957 the Tawa Flat and Titahi Bay secondary urban fire district abolished and this brought into being the Porirua Fire Brigade made up of Tawa, Titahi Bay and Porirua units.