History 1973 - ...

As told by Dennis Warner in the 25 year aniversary book.

After several house fires in the Papamoa area which were attended by the Te Puke Fire Brigade, the County Town Committee decided, as water was not reticulated then, that a water tanker was needed.

After Months of recommendations from us (the County Town Committee) to the Tauranga County Council, an old yellow Bedford tanker duly arrived.  It was to be left by Flay's Store (now the shops on the corner of Parton & Papamoa Beach Roads).  The idea being that anybody could drive the tanker to a fire to assist the Fire Brigades as it had an old portable pump on the back.

In October 1973, unbeknown to the County Town Committee, a group of people, namely the late John Strickland (who was boss of the AFCO Co Fire Party at the time), Joe Frew, Brian Sherson, Graham Turner, Colin Duncan, C McGillivary, Gordon Crosby, Bernie McLean, Cor de Lange, Hugh Bentley and B Reilly, decided to form a Fire Party.

I was approached by Joe Frew in November 1973.  I was interested in joining but told him that a deputation to the County Town Council was necessary, as the tanker was leased to them by the Tauranga County Council.  After a bit of toing and froing the County Town Committee officially recognized the Fire Party.  This came as a great relief as we needed someone to manage and look after it.

I joined on the 8th of January 1974 with a feeling of scepticism, as I was still on the County Town Council at that stage.

The training was very basic.  But then it is very difficult to start anything from scratch.  Looking back, John did a great job.  He acquired bunker coats, boots and helmets from all over the place.  We were a little worried about asking him how he came by them!  But I do know he got quite a few from Les Hirst of the Ngongotaha Fire Brigade.

John's wife Mauritia was on the County Town Committee with me.  She was like a little fox terrier and kept hounding the Tauranga County Council for more equipment.  At one stage they started talking about the 'Green Goddess' trucks that were being used by Civil Defense.  Well, if you haven't got much to start off with, that sounded pretty good to us!  Actually, as a matter of interest, we never saw one.

We had nowhere to have meetings until Gordon Crosby made a hall that he had at his camping ground available to us.  We also had some very good socials there.  I don't know why but every time we had a barbeque we ended up in Gordon's carport because it always rained!

During the years the tanker had it's fair share of problems, on a few occasions it would not start and had to be towed by a tractor.  Other times there were flat tires, or someone had siphoned the gas out of it.  It was decided to leave the tanker at my house over the Christmas holidays as I lived closest to the shop.

The population of Papamoa by this stage was about 400, which meant grass fires were phenomenal.  I remember one day when my family and I had gone to Te Puke shopping, coming home all I could see was smoke in the general vicinity of where my house would have been.  I thought to myself how it would look if a fireman's house burnt down!  Doing 90 mph when I reached Simpson Road, great joy, my house was still there.  A grass fire had started just up the road and had spread close to the house, going through the chicken coop (just as well I like hard boiled eggs).  Holiday makers from across the road had seen the fire and rushed over, one used the garden hose while the other went inside (in those days you could leave your house unlocked) to ring 111.  He told them about the fire and that he was ringing from a fireman's house because there was a list of members by the phone and a bloody big yellow tanker parked in the yard.

Another time there was a house fire on Papamoa Beach Road.  When we arrived it was pretty well involved so we quickly got to work.  The Mount arrived and then Te Puke.  Then we ran out of water and were told to go and get some more, even though I had noticed that the tanker was getting pretty hot.  On the way to Girven Road, the closest fire hydrant, we came across Te Puke who had also run out of water and were experiencing heating problems.  After filling up we returned to the house which by now was a charred mess.  Then the tanker died.  I thought that Last Rites would have to be given but no, it was resuscitated.

In 1981 the Tauranga County Council obtained some land and put up a tin shed with a small hand basin and toilet to house the tanker.  By this time our yellow tanker had become red we were getting closer!  In 1982 we became part of the Tauranga district our official title Number 3 station.

Now that we had a 'station' be it ever so humble, John decided we needed more room as we were having more calls.  So he suggested we call it a lecture room rather than a social room as we might get more money towards it that way.  Good idea but it didn't work.  John became pretty good at collecting gib board and 2x4's and also managed to find a fire place.  Most thanks went to Te Puke Pine and to the people of Papamoa who, from door to door collections, enabled us to get the concrete for the floor.


Written by
Dennis Warner 1998