SEVERAL stories about the fire brigade in Bundaberg in the Hindsight section recently have brought back boyhood memories for long-time Bundaberg resident Austen Whitaker.

Mr Whitaker said the stories reminded him of his own connection during the Second World War with the brigade, when it was located in Bourbong St on the site now occupied by Bundaberg Regional Council.

"Bill Wells was the officer in charge and was known to me as Uncle Billy, being in the Whitaker family tree," he said.

"He resided in a small cottage with his sister behind the fire station where the Civic Centre is now sited."

Mr Whitaker said he was troop leader of the South Bundaberg Boy Scouts, and regularly visited the fire station, where Uncle Billy would tell him stories of his navy service in the First World War.

"I knew how to splice ordinary rope from my scouting days, but he taught me how to splice wire rope, using a conical shaped tool called a fid.

"He also gave me an illustrated book covering all aspects of sailing ships and their rig."

Mr Whitaker said the brigade, to test its equipment, would build up huge heaps of dead timber in an open space along Bargara Rd.

They would then invite three or four Scouts to ride on the fire engine and help to extinguish the fires after they were lit.

He said it was great fun ringing the fire bell on the truck, since there were no sirens in those days.

"A couple of us would hold the heavy brass nozzles of the fire hoses waiting for the water to arrive," Mr Whitaker said.

"It would invariably twist out of our hands like a writhing snake from the force of the water, and we would finish up soaked."

Mr Whitaker said one of the fire wagons was a Dennis model with solid rubber tyres.

He said beside the brass helmets which they were always polishing, the firemen wore a heavy black or navy blue uniform buttoned up to the neck, "which would have been hot to wear during a fire".

Mr Whitaker said when a fire started, a large bell was rung at the station to summon the volunteer firemen who probably arrived on bicycles.

"I can recall the disastrous fire in November 1936 when lightning struck the rum distillery," said Mr Whitaker, who about eight at the time.

"The river surface was on fire because of explosions and run-off of spirits.

"Fish life, large and small, flopped around the surface because of lack of oxygen."



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