Local Fire Brigade
Updated: Jun 16
There are 85 Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) stations in Victoria, 47 in metropolitan Melbourne, two of which are located in the City of Boroondara, including Glen Iris and our very own Glenferrie Hawthorn. The local brigade was established in 1879 and was housed at the rear of the Hawthorn Town Hall, now the Hawthorn Arts Centre, and was fully volunteer-based.
Due to economic constraints, it was not until 1910, that the construction of an innovative two-story, Edwardian ‘freestyle’ station was completed at 66-68 Williams Street. In its time, the station was home to the country’s first fully motorised fleet of fire engines and, quaint as it sounds, multiple phone lines. In 1997, the old station was heritage listed. The Victorian Heritage Council described the remarkably unchanged building as “architecturally and historically important to the State of Victoria”. In the same year, the Hawthorn fire brigade was relocated mere metres away to a more modern facility at 45 William Street, while its grand old base now houses The Design Factory as part of Swinburne University.
Nowadays, FRV stations are staffed by career firefighters 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Firefighting itself has become revolutionised by the use of thermal imaging drones with live camera feeds and their service extends to search and rescue, natural disaster response, marine rescue and even assistance during surgery. The brigade’s usual fire education activities in schools throughout Victoria has been on hold of late due to the pandemic, however, such activities have long remained a significant part of their community engagement including visits to Glenferrie Primary School.
Local fire stations are a resource and safety measure for the area as well as playing a vital role in building and connecting the community through education and working outside of typical parameters. For example, Tom, a nine-year-old Glenferrie Hawthorn local, has been visiting the Hawthorn fire station and connecting with the fire brigade on a weekly basis for several years. Tom, who suffers from the rare Batten’s disease - a form of juvenile dementia, would pass the Hawthorn fire station and look in at the trucks on the way to Central Gardens (Rocket Park) with his mum, Kate. As his eyesight deteriorated, it became harder for him to see the trucks through the glass door. Eventually Tom and his mother began going inside the station where the local brigade did not hesitate to welcome their young visitor.
“The firefighters have been consistently wonderful over the years.” Kate divulges, “They opened the station door and showed Tom around, giving him things to hold, putting the sirens on, tooting the horn – and even giving him a trip in the fire truck once or twice”. Tom’s visits have allowed him to experience inclusiveness and, in his view, also a career. “Most recently, the brigade organised Tom his own uniform – a mini version of theirs. Now Tom considers himself an honorary member of the Hawthorn fire brigade.” The Glenferrie Hawthorn FRV station is a comfort, not only to young Tom, but also our community by their proximity, history, and activity as ambassadors for our safety.