Cromwell Volunteer Fire Brigade - A Brief History
The decision to form a fire brigade was made at a public meeting in September 1874. This first brigade had twenty-four members but lack of water and equipment made it little more than a “Bucket Brigade”. The original brigade rules and the first minute book are still in existence.
Over the next twenty years, the brigade lapsed and was re-established several times. On more than one occasion, this occurred after a house had burnt down in the area. A lack of water available for fire fighting purposes was a major problem, as the earliest supplies were unreliable open water races originally constructed for gold mining work. Even then, the water was shared around the needs of the miners and the residents.
The latest reorganisation of the brigade look place in 1897 and since then has provided an uninterrupted service to the Cromwell community and district. After several upgrades, a reticulated water supply was installed and commissioned about this time, complete with ball-type fire hydrants. A photograph, dated as being taken in 1904, shows fourteen members complete with a hose reel, standpipes and branches.
In 1905 a building was erected above the banks of the Clutha River for the use of the brigade. This proved to be too small and by 1913, members had made the decision that a new, more centrally located station was required. As with many other projects, World War I caused delays. After much fund-raising (including the raffling of a Model T Ford) a new station in Killala Street was opened in the 1930’s. As the town expanded in the 1960’s, a second pumping appliance was added, along with an engine bay to house it. After this, a large social room was added.
The decision to make Cromwell the base for the Clutha Hydro Scheme development created the need for a new, better sited fire station. After one or two false starts, the current station building at Cromwell was constructed and opened in 1992. Brigade fundraising enabled a larger than planned social room to be included in the build. The redevelopment and large expansion of Cromwell included almost total replacement of the water reticulation system. As a result, the town now has excellent water supplies for fire fighting.
In the early 2000’s, the second pumping appliance on station (up until then a regional spare) was commissioned as a pump-rescue appliance, this occurring after another brigade fundraising effort to purchase the necessary equipment. Many times this equipment has proved invaluable with motor vehicle crashes occurring in the Upper Cromwell and Lower Kawarau Gorges, as well as SH8 towards the Lindis Pass and SH6 towards Luggate.
During the Brigade's Centenary year, consideration was given to establishing an Operational Support Unit and following all the necessary arrangements being attended to, the unit was formed in February 1975. The unit provides incident support including providing crowd control, traffic & site safety and scene lighting when required at many of the brigade’s fires and vehicle crashes.
The present brigade has a membership of 26 Fire-fighters and 3 Operational Support members. The brigade remains active outside of incidents with Cromwell represented in road crash rescue challenges, waterways competitions, drivers challenges and the annual Skytower stair climb.