The Parkes Fire Brigade has had a presence in this community for 142 years and on Tuesday, its firefighters were officially given their new station.
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The opening of the $2.05 million state-of-the-art facility marks another milestone for the brigade, who since 1879 when a shed was erected at the rear of the Parkes Court House, has remained on the same block.
The brigade is now known as Parkes Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and had been operating out of the 100-year-old, much smaller and out-dated station in Court Street, just metres up from their original location.
That is, until now.
After more than a decade of firefighters and the community pushing for a new premises and some toing and froing of where its new location would be, the state government settled on a parcel of land another few metres up and around the corner in Hill Street.
The new station features a twin fire engine bay, allowing the station to expand its fleet to two Class 2 appliances (one pump and one SEV Pump).
It also contains modern training and recovery facilities for its 17 firefighters, a kitchen, office/lecture room, station commander's office, male and female separation in the locker rooms and toilet facilities, gym, hanging space for uniforms, ample storage, laundry storage and finally a car park.
Located at the site's entrance is a memorial garden with signage detailing the brigade's history.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott and FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter joined other dignitaries in Parkes to open the new station.
"This building represents sacrifice, community and cultural history," Mr Elliott said.
"It's more than just bricks and water... What I've learned from my many visits here is there is a good sense of community in this part of the state.
"The NSW Government invested $14.4 million for new fire stations and major renovations across NSW in the 2019-20 Budget, so it is pleasing to see one of the new stations opening here at Parkes."
FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter said the station's modern facilities would boost firefighters' ability to protect the community.
"It's a station built for the future," he said.
"It's the first station I've watched off the production line, from start to finish.
"There were a few false starts and we ended up coming back to the 'scene of the crime' (the site the government was initially considering)."
Parkes captain Craig Gibson thanked all who attended the opening and spoke about the brigade's history and some of its most notable incidents.
The CEO of the Museum of Fire Belinda McMartin attended the ceremony and presented Mr Gibson a frame recognising the brigade's history and its stations.
A special booklet detailing the history from 1878-2020 had also been researched and prepared by the Museum of Fire and made available on the day.
Parkes Mayor Ken Keith OAM congratulated the Parkes brigade on the opening.
"There were some issues initially but we worked them out and all would agree it's a wonderful result," he said.
Cr Keith said there are hopes for the former station in Court Street to be turned into a museum that houses the history of the brigade.
"We will write a letter to see if the minister would consider gifting the building to us," he said.
"It would be nice to preserve that history."
Parkes Shire Council plans to hold a memorial at the new station next year and install a plaque in the new garden to honour the courageous efforts of the Parkes Fire Brigade who fought the major fuel fire at the Mobil Depot in East Street on May 23, 1983.
In November 1877 a meeting was held to form a fire brigade in Parkes and by the end of the following year this had come to fruition.
One of the first reports of the brigade attending a fire was in November 1878 in the tailor's shop.
The next year, 1879, began in a disastrous manner for Parkes - just after midnight on January 1 flames engulfed an empty shop attached to the Post Office Hotel.
Within five minutes the hotel had succumbed and soon the fire spread throughout the entire block with five more shops destroyed.
The Commercial Bank and a number of other properties were also destroyed with the fire only stopping after a building was removed creating a fire break.
In 2019 Parkes FRNSW firefighters answered more than 200 call-outs.
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