Not All Firefighting
The fact that we are known as a Fire Brigade does not mean that we are solely fire fighters. The different services rendered are many and varied. Over the years the Brigade has been called upon to assist in some very unusual cases. To mention a few – removing a wedding ring from a very swollen finger, to extricate a little thumb from a garden hose sprinkler, to retrieve a horse which had fallen into a gully, a dog from a drainpipe, little boys from high up in trees and cats from power poles.
One of the most memorable incidents of this nature was in 1958 when a small boy was reported lost in the hills between Porirua Pa and the Ngati Toa School. This search involved the entire Brigade, Police and many members of the public for two nights and a day and unfortunately the lives of one of our searchers who died while climbing around in the gorse. The little boy was eventually found safe and well, but hidden in old man gorse.
The Brigade had its busiest time in these special service calls on “Wahine Day” when 112 calls were logged in a 24 hour period.
A further incident of the unusual was when a rather large transformer belonging to the H.V.E.P.B. fell from a transporter when the road gave way under the weight and the transformer finished up in the Takapau Stream and the oil from the transformer posed a serious pollution hazard to the Porirua Stream. The Brigade was called and the oil was broken up by the application of large quantities of detergent through foam making branches, with the result that no oil reached the Porirua Stream.
In the latter part of 1959 an unfortunate drowning occurred in the Porirua Stream at Linden and an ambulance was called from Wellington with a resuscitator. Unfortunately the ambulance was involved in an accident at the corner of Kenepuru Drive and McLellan Street so the driver threw the resuscitator on his back and ran to the address some half a mile further on. The driver was incidentally Mr. Barlow, later decorated posthumously for giving his life to save others in the Maldive Street Tunnel in June 1964.
This incident brought to light the fact that the resuscitating equipment was not very readily available in the Porirua Basin area, in fact not available at all to do any good. The nearest sets were Wellington and Palmerston North.
Station Officer Pragnell was at the scene of the accident and drowning and made approaches to Chief Officer Bicknell with regard to acquiring a resuscitator for the Brigade. Enquiries were made as to type and availability and it was learned that a new American resuscitator was on the market for approximately £140.
After a Brigade meeting it was decided to circularize every household in the fire district from Glenside to Titahi Bay explaining the position and requesting Donations. When these circulars had been dispatched the entire brigade of 54 men from C.F.O. to messenger called on each and every household personally and the response was overwhelming. The Brigade finished with sufficient money to by three resuscitators and a complete set of extras for each one. A resuscitator was placed on an appliance for each of the three stations – Tawa, Titahi Bay, and Porirua.
These resuscitators are still in use today and are still the property of the community that financed them.
They have been called upon many, many times over the years.