Foxton's Volunteer Fire Brigade celebrated 100 years to the day last Monday. Current and past members and family members turned out to celebrate at the station, listen to a brief history and watch a memorial plaque being unveiled.
Chief Fire Officer Shaun Sayer read out a brief history of the service, recounted how much fire fighting has changed over the years, while retired Chief Fire Officer, and the brigade's longest serving member, Gary Stratford unveiled the plaque, which was blessed by the brigade's kaumātua Trevor Solomon.
The sounding of church bells and the fire station's fire alarm during the commemorations were symbolic of the crew's history.
A hundred years ago the town's wooden buildings and open fires were a deadly combination and the burning of individual homes led to much heartache.
"It was the spectacular blazes of the closely built commercial buildings which made the biggest headlines," said Sayer. "The need for fire protection was recognised early on, but it took a long time before the bucket brigades were replaced."
Early steps towards a fully fledged fire service were taken in 1881 when a fire tower with bell was erected next to the courthouse.
"So the bucket brigade could be more rapidly formed."
Sayer said the early attempts at fire fighting seldom prevented serious damage. There were reports of serious fires in 1894, 1895 (the old tram sheds), 1905 (BNZ) and in1912, both on the west and east side of Main Street.
In 1920 Mr Perreau's building was destroyed by fire affecting multiple businesses.
"It seems that was the final straw for Perreau who led a public meeting calling for a fire service.
"The brigade was soon formed and a hand-drawn chemical fire appliance purchased."
Their first job was a fire at the Racing Club and their efforts have been credited for saving the adjacent building of the Manawatū Herald.
In 1922 the Foxton Fire Board was formed, which borrowed 1450 pounds to build a fire station, buy a motorised fire appliance, uniforms, a hose and other equipment needed.
A fire station was opened in 1923 and another appliance purchased, which was known for its lack of speed.
"Cyclists, including late arriving firemen, passed it on the way to fires," said Sayer.
Since the forming of the first brigade local fires no longer were disastrous, but much has changed over the years and the fire service's tasks have been expanded greatly.
The currently station was build in 1975, in front of the old station.
"In the 40s and 50s there were on average 19 call-outs each year. By the 70s and 80s that had risen to 45," Sayer said. "Now we average 150 calls-out a year. We attended our first car crash in 1974."
The Foxton brigade has 276 past and present members and currently has 13 gold star members, with two more qualifying this year.
The current brigade has 16 members and so did the team that started it all on March 2 1920.
Founding members were: D Christie, S Compton, H Frankland, H Hamer, S Head, T Morgan, W Nye, W O'Brien, H Osborne, E Parkin, C Pearson, M Perreau, J Rider, P Robinson, A Smith and A Stevenson jnr.
Current members are: CFO Shaun Sayer, DCFO Michael Clement, SSO Roger Clement, SO Ian Petersen, SFF Scott Burr, SFF Michael Garard, SFF Mike Williamson, QFF Dylan Hannam-Mawson, QFF Michelle Williamson, FF Paul Bairstow, FF Jordan Conibear, FF Steve Lemon, FF Chris Munro, FF Davina Solomon, FF Shane Solomon, FF Tarehu Solomon.
Over the years fathers and sons, uncles, daughters, husbands and wives of serving members have joined. Several families have multiple members, such as the Betty family with 10 or 11 members.