Only ten years younger than the Ohinemuri County Council is the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade, for it was on October 13, 1895, that Paeroa townsfolk realised that such an organisation was necessary and quickly set about establishing a bucket brigade. There were many volunteers and Mr. J. Nathan was elected captain, Mr. C. Ashwin secretary, Mr. R. T. Bush treasurer, Mr. F. C. Griffiths lieutenant, and Messrs. H. H. Griffiths, W. J. Wilson, W. J. Hawk and G. Avey foremen. Finance was raised by a canvass of the town and subscriptions of 1/- a week from 53 business men. Fifty buckets were purchased, and an offer of Mr. G. Crosby, of the Royal Mail Hotel, was accepted to build a fire station and a fire bell tower adjoining his premises, a condition being that the members sign a guarantee that they would not do anything to cause the removal of the Brigade from Crosby’s Buildings.
In 1896 the Brigade affiliated to the Fire Brigades’ Association and was represented for the first time at a demonstration. In the same year the fire station was built, and the bell was erected, so there was no longer any necessity to use the bell of the Anglican Church, and the first fire engine arrived. The first fire attended was on July 1, 1896, and after attending a number of minor outbreaks the Brigade had its first big task when the new hotel, which was in course of erection, was completely destroyed on August 18, 1896. Adjoining premises were saved. At the first annual meeting, Captain J. O’Hara was appointed, and he continued to be in charge for very many years, being assisted by Lieutenant F. C. Griffiths, till Lieutenant H. Moore was appointed in 1897. On October 29, 1898, the Brigade attended a fire at Karangahake, which destroyed eight shops and did damage estimated at £5000. Lieutenant H. Moore was nominated for the captaincy in 1898 and was defeated, and for many years was a stormy malcontent.
Some Stormy Meetings
Squabbles in the Brigade and with the Fire Prevention Council were frequent till Mr. W. Moore, now superintendent, was elected captain in 1903. He has held the position ever since, and the Brigade has had a fairly quiet life, though there have been many occasions when it did not see eye to eye with the various controlling authorities over the provision of money, uniforms and equipment. Several times this led to decisions to disband, but nothing serious ever happened. Many serious fires have been fought, the worst being that which destroyed McAndrew’s sash and door factory on November 3, 1909, doing damage estimated at £12,000.
In 1924 the present fire station was opened and in 1926 the first motor reel was acquired. The present up-to-date fire engine was purchased in 1944, and the Brigade now has equipment equal to any town of the same size in New Zealand.
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