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The first Fire Brigade (Volunteer) was formed in 1860, almost a year before Queensland had become a separate state to New South Wales. Brisbane was first occupied as a penal colony in 1825 with the last of the convicts being removed in 1939, why Brisbane waited for so long for a Fire Brigade can not be understood however the small population and financial circumstances all would have played a part. And so began Fire Service's in Brisbane and Queensland not long after. . .

The fire services of Queensland were provided through 81 local Fire Brigade Boards until 1990 with the urban and rural services operating as separate organisations. In 1990, the Fire Services Act was proclaimed replacing the boards and creating a single statewide Queensland Fire Service incorporating the Rural Fire Division. Following a review of the Queensland Fire Service in 1996, it was established as a statutory authority and renamed Queensland Fire and Rescue Authority.

The amalgamation of the various bodies into Queensland Ambulance Service and what is now Queensland Fire and Rescue Authority provided a platform for integrated services across the State. It ensured that variations in the standard and level of service to the community were reduced or eliminated.

The Emergency Services Legislation Amendment Act 1998 established the Emergency Services Advisory Council to provide advice to the Minister on the extent to which current service delivery satisfies community needs. The Emergency Services Advisory Council includes representatives from major stakeholder groups such as the Local Government Association of Queensland, relevant major unions, Local Ambulance Committees, business communities, universities and the rural sector.

We have come a long way. Click here to go to the Community page and take control of an interactive scrolling timeline showcasing photos of the Emergency Services' involvement in the community - right back to the 1800s!

Historical reference books can be purchased from the museum in the following books,  Brisbane on Fire and Brisbane Ablaze, which provide a complete history of fire services in Brisbane from 1860 to 1990. The books are co-authored by former fire brigade Superintendent Kevin Calthorpe and his brother-in-law Ken Capell.

Brisbane On Fire

A History of Firefighting
1860 - 1925
by K.D. Calthorpe and K. Capell

Brisbane on Fire recounts the history of the Brisbane fire brigade from the days of the first volunteer brigade in 1860, through the early years of Brisbane's Metropolitan Fire Brigade up until 1925.

This era includes the years when firefighters turned out to incidents on horse-drawn firefighting appliances, the construction of Brisbane's first fire stations, the first Brisbane firefighter to be killed in the line of duty and the introduction of motorised fire engines.

The book also contains photographs and details of some of Brisbane's early blazes - and the firefighters who battled to contain them.

This hardcover, 239 page book can be purchased from author

Ken Capell by phoning 61 7 3397 7950.

Brisbane Ablaze

A History of Firefighting
1921 - 1990
by K.D. Calthorpe and K. Capell

Over a period of 90 years, more than 1900 officers and firefighters of the Brisbane Metropolitan Fire Brigades dealt with more than a quarter of a million fire calls. Brisbane Ablaze tells the story of their answer to the call of duty. The book also traces their battle for industrial justice.

The story is told through a combination of newspaper reports, official fire brigade records and tales from the firefighters and officers of the brigade, bringing to life some of the characters, incidents and events that shaped the development of what is now part of the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service.

Brisbane Ablaze recounts hundreds of Brisbane's biggest and most tragic fires and features over ten pages of names of member of the Brisbane Metropolitan Fire Brigade and two full pages of firies nicknames.

About the Authors

Kevin Calthorpe joined the Brisbane Metropolitan Fire Brigade as a probationer in 1952.  Before retiring in 1989, he had reached the rank of Superintendent and was awarded the Australian Fire Services Medal for his outstanding contribution to the brigade.

Though Kevin did not live to see the publication of these books, neither book would have become reality without his vision and research.  Kevin was so respected by his peers that many of them referred to his as Mister Fire Brigade.

LEFT:  Station Officer Kevin Calthorpe overcome by a sense of helplessness after attempting to rescue a small boy at the Heidilberg Street fire in East Brisbane, 1965.

Ken Capell retired from his position as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Queensland after 35 years of service at the University.  He holds the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Mathematics and gained publishing experience by producing mathematics text book Dynamics of a Particle.

As Kevin Calthorpe's brother-in-law, Dr Capell has had a long-standing interest in the history of the Brisbane fire brigade.


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