Firefighters came from near and far to help Whanganui Fire Service celebrate its 150th jubilee.

The special day was marked over the weekend with a parade of fire engines through Whanganui's central business district, a display in Majestic Square and Watt St, a formal ball and, yesterday, an informal brunch.

Whanganui's chief fire officer, Bernie Rush, said the weekend "exceeded our expectations".

Hundreds of current and former firefighters turned out for the event - with some from as far away as Australia. Mr Rush said the oldest former firefighters were in their 90s.


"They had plenty of good stories to tell."

Mr Rush said 53 fire trucks - dating from the 1800s to the present day - took part in the parade. "We had a really good crowd - it was like being in the Santa parade." Nearly 350 people attended the Firefighters' Ball, with men in suits and women in long gowns, at Wanganui Racecourse.

Mr Rush said families of former chief fire officers who had died also attended the jubilee. Of particular interest were the two sons of former chief Matt Morton, who was in charge of the Whanganui brigade from 1957-68.

"Chief Morton died on the job, he dropped dead while the brigade was battling a house fire," Mr Rush said.

"His sons came to the jubilee and brought with them a lot of his personal effects relating to his time in the brigade. They've donated it all to us, which is great because there's a lot of information that would have been lost otherwise."

Mr Rush was pleased by the public interest in the jubilee.

"We're really grateful for how the community has got in behind our brigade and made this event really special for us."