Brothers Zac (3) and Ben (7) McAuliffe try on a pair of
firefighter's boots for size at the Queenstown Volunteer
Fire Brigade open day on Saturday. Photo by Christina
The Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade attends 300-400
callouts a year, though the number is dropping because of
improved detection systems and training of personnel.
Its status as the second-oldest brigade in New Zealand still
manned by volunteers will be celebrated this weekend when
past and present firefighters, brigade staff and their
families converge on the resort for the brigade's 150th
Chief Fire Officer Bob Robertson has been in the brigade for
a third of its existence.
He can recall a time when there were 15 volunteers, all men,
and vehicle accidents were not a job for the fire brigade.
''We never went to car accidents in the early days. It wasn't
part of the work we did.''
The first motor vehicle accident the brigade attended was a
tractor accident in 1958, in which a Queenstown man was
killed when the tractor he was driving tipped over.
''We gradually grew into them [vehicle accidents]. I think it
was probably something that was thrust upon us. I can
remember the first lot of cutting gear we got ... probably
35-40 years ago.''
In the ''early days'' the brigade probably attended more
firefighting events such as scrub fires, Mr Robertson said.
Brigade secretary Katherine Lamont said now the volunteers
''turn out to whatever is going''.
''Even the odd medical call if St John are going to be
delayed,'' Mrs Lamont said.
A comprehensive book, written by Jenny McLeod, details major
fires in the brigade's and Queenstown's history.
There have been multiple occasions when central Queenstown
has been ablaze; from a major fire in Ballarat St in 1882
started by Prussian grocer Philip Waldemann, whose plan was
set fire to his shop before leaving town in the failed hope
of avoiding detection and claiming insurance on the loss, to
the more recent Fat Badgers Pizza and World Bar fire in
Shotover St in May involving a commercial cooking vat.
The Queenstown brigade's first female firefighter was Vicki
Paddon, who joined in 1989.
Now, the brigade boasts seven women.
About 240 people are expected to attend the 150th
anniversary, which will consist of an informal get-together
on Friday night and a formal dinner and annual award ceremony
on Saturday night.