The formation of the Lincoln Fire Brigade dates officially from a meeting held on 6th November 1963 which was attended by 15 residents with apologies from an extra seven.
Southbridge Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer, Doug Goulden explained what would be required to form a brigade and it was immediately resolved that the following persons would be appointed to form the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Brigade: KS Styles, CR Gilmore, VN Ellis, E McNabb, JW Habgood, JT Greaves, M Eilken, LJ Ford, DJ Griffiths, G Valk, GM Fitzgibbon, DJ Belcher, P Ivamy, IR Fraser, M Beyers, Dr H Smith, D Cameron, E Smith, RE Dohram and V Eilken. Two other locals, J Bourke and FB Ford were appointed honorary members as the total complement allowed to form the brigade was limited to 20 active members.
Following further discussion it was resolved that Mr JW Habgood be recommended for appointment as the first Chief Fire Officer and that Mr M Eilken be recommended for appointment as the Deputy Chief Fire Officer.
As with any organisation taking its first tentative steps the problems of equipment and finance were always at hand. The Ellesmere County Council offered a small grant to cover incidental expenses. Ten pounds was considered sufficient advancement until the brigade was established. That establishment was finalised on 1st April 1964 when the Lincoln Fire Brigade was gazetted. By this time the brigade had grown to 25 members and had a portable pump (received from the council), 2 lengths of suction hose, a strainer basket and also 2 fire extinguishers.
By the beginning of 1964 the need for a new station to house the Brigade, it’s equipment and the urgent need for an appliance had been determined and committees were set up to achieve these important goals. After several visits to Ellesmere and Southbridge Fire Brigades to practice with their equipment the Brigade was at last ready to hold its own practices with it’s own equipment. Hoses transported water from the Liffey stream up onto Leinster Terrace and brigadesmen carried out practice activities much to the amusement of some locals.
The first fire
On May 14th 1964 the Brigade attended its first fire. The fire was on Yarr’s property, Springston South, and according to the minutes at the time, was dealt with in an efficient manner. Attending that first ever fire were John Habgood, Maurie Eilken, Vic Eilken, Jack Greaves and Des Belcher, these members being the ones first able to be reached by telephone after Chief Fire Officer John Habgood had been advised of the fire.
The ‘efficient manner’ mentioned above would have been preceded by a highly time-consuming and quite complex procedure. Prior to the commissioning of the Brigades first appliance in mid 1965 alternative transportation was required in order to answer a call out to a fire. When such a call was received foremen would have to empty water tanks from a loading bank onto a truck, the portable pump would be placed on board, the tanks would then be filled from the Railway tank stands around the corner and the unit could then proceed to the fire.
The Central Canterbury Electric Power Board had supplied and erected two steel poles for hose drying purposes and also a pole with the Brigades siren attached on the premises of the Lincoln Community Centre. The siren was run for test purposes at 7.30pm on a Wednesday night each week, at which time the brigade had decided to hold its practices. The original siren proved somewhat inadequate so a new 5 horse power, 3 phase siren was ordered. In the early days of Brigade operation in Lincoln the siren was as much the cause of complaint as it was of commendation.
The first appliance
The building of the brigade’s first appliance started on the 22nd October 1964 and proceeded as quickly as possible.
A 1950 OLB Bedford, ex post and telegraph, dual cab chassis had been bought by John Habgood and Doug Goulden at a Ministry of Works dispersal sale. The basic frame was built up at Habgoods workshop using steel donated by WA Habgood Limited. The plywood exterior over this frame was built on by brigade members who worked a roster of duties on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights for many months. The appliance carried an 800 gallon ex oil company tank and the water was pumped by the original FWMP Coventry Climax engine. When completed, on the 27th June 1965, volunteers had worked a total of 405 man hours on its construction.
The second appliance arrived on 19th April 1968, this was a 1938 Ford V8 (ex Southbridge VFB) with a single cab and an open sided central well for additional firemen behind a 180 gallon tank. However later in 1970 this appliance broke down which caused major difficulties which were partly overcome when Lincoln College placed their 1954 Q Dodge fire unit at Lincolns’ disposal on a temporary basis.
The first fire station
On this same day as the first appliance was completed members constructed a temporary ‘fire station’ to house their appliance. Using the old WA Habgood stock crate ramps for framing and spare corrugated iron supplied by the Ellesmere County Council on the exterior, the building served its purpose well until the new station was built. It was eventually demolished in mid 1970.
The first year
The Brigades first annual meeting was on 21st April 1965 and the Chief Fire Officer, John Habgood, was able to report that the brigade had attended 38 fire calls since its inception. Of these, 9 were property fires at which the Brigade had rendered a good account of itself, 25 were fence or grass fires, 2 were malicious false alarms and 2 were false alarms brought about by defective apparatus.
The financial arrangements for the proposed fire station were a major subject and resulted in a complete canvass of the district. This resulted in over 2000 pounds being collected towards the estimated cost of around 5000 pounds. In November 1965 Lincoln was accepted as a member of the Canterbury Provincial Fire Brigades Association.
A permanent home
Although the first meeting to be held in the new fire station took place on 7th February 1968 the official opening was not held until ten days later.
This auspicious occasion signalled the end of the formative stages of the Brigade and the beginning of its function as a properly established unit. The building of the new station had not proceeded entirely smoothly. The councils involved with the major proportion of the stations funding had to be convinced of the necessity for proceeding with a building to cost almost 7000 pounds. The official opening by HLE Peryman Esq., Chairman of the Fire Service Council, on 17th February 1968 was followed by an extensive social hour for which the proprietors of the Lincoln, Tai Tapu and Springston Hotels provided donations of good cheer.
A new appliance
Late in 1972 after much waiting and anxiety. Chief Fire Officer G.Fitzgibbon travelled to Wellington and took delivery of the brigade’s first ‘brand new’ appliance a Ford D600 and drove it back to Lincoln. The GF prefix on the registration plates was very appropriate as the CFO’s initials.
Two pump upgrade
In 1985 the significant risk in the Lincoln District was recognised by the NZ Fire Service and Lincoln was upgraded to a two pump station. The additional appliance was provided ex Christchurch and was an ERF with a large 6/3 pump to enable water to be pumped to the top floors of Lincoln College.
(Information from “The first 25 years of the Lincoln Fire Brigade 1963 – 1988” written by Michael Fitzgibbon).
Some photos over the years
(If you have photos yourself that we could add, we’d love to hear from you)