Our History

There are few surviving records of what happened in the early days, and those that do exist are sketchy. Ironically, many were burnt, others thrown away and books lost in the change-over of senior officers.

What is known is that the city’s first brigade was formed in 1891 and was registered in May 1893. The oriinally elected personnel were E.J. Taylor (Captain 1893-1899) and W.F. Watson (Secretary 1892-1899). In the next couple of years as membership grew, other ranks were established including A.H. Turton (Lieutenant 1896-1898) and C.H. Wolf (Foreman 1897-1898).

In the early days, the weatherboard brigade hall occupied the northern comer of Elgin and High Streets. No photographs of the original station are known to exist, although the bell tower which stood next to it can be seen in early pictures.

Uncertainty exists about exactly which type of fire fighting unit was first owned by the brigade, however The Border Morning Mail on May 4, 1949 contained a copy of an old photograph showing a horse-drawn wagon and attributed its ownership to the Wodonga brigade. There are no records proving its existence but Percy Flower recalls it being kept outside the fire station when he was a child. He said his father, a founding member of the brigade, had used it, but it was no longer operational by the time Percy joined the brigade in 1929.

The second unit definitely used by Wodonga’s brigade between 1920 and 1935 was a hand-drawn hose and reel which the volunteers pulled to the fires themselves. If they were lucky enough to chance upon a car travelling in the same direction, they attached the cart to it and were towed to the fire, arriving, bar accidents, in a much less worn-out state.

The original fire station in Elgin St had a big iron bell mounted outside which was rung to sound the alarm. Its mournful sound could be heard up to five miles away. The brigade was made up solely of volunteers and no one manned the station permanently. All distress calls were made to Mrs Hide’s bakery next door because she had a telephone. She would pass messages on or ring the bell herself.

Wodonga’s growth in the 35 years after the brigade shifted to High St meant that more modern, up-to-date premises were needed to meet the challenges fire fighting posed in the closing decades of the century. The old station was too small which meant that some of the brigade’s equipment could not be kept under shelter. High St had also become too busy, making it difficult and dangerous for fire engines to take off in a hurry. Engines had to be backed into the station from High St, causing a traffic hazard. Permanent staff had also been appointed and they could not be accommodated at the old station.

To alleviate these problems, the CFA bought a block of land on the comer of Stanley and Smythe Streets, demolished the existing buildings on it and had a new station built. It became operational as a Class A-1 station on October 24, 1976 and was opened by Colin Diffey, then deputy chairman of the Country Fire Authority on July 16, 1977.