STATION 13: NORTHCOTE
Northcote Fire Station No. 13 in B District at 3 Mitchell Street, Northcote still occupies the same site it did upon establishment in 1894, although the original red brick station no longer stands. In the late nineteenth century, the area around Northcote was still at risk of grass fires. The suburb was also experiencing rapid subdivision with rows of small wooden terrace houses being hastily constructed. The fire risk posed by these new dwellings added to already existing concerns and in 1887 a volunteer fire brigade was established, operating out of a shed on the site of the newly opened Northcote Town Hall.
Despite their best efforts, the original volunteer brigade of twenty-five men took a while to hit their stride. Their first call-out in the summer of 1888 led to the complete incineration of the house in question. On another occasion this brigade is also on record as turning their hoses onto other volunteer brigades instead of onto the fires they were supposed to be dousing, defending what they viewed as their turf.
When the Melbourne Fire Brigade was constituted in 1891, the professional brigade was situated in the same Northcote Town Hall premises until the Mitchell Street building was opened on 23 November 1894, at a total cost of £605. The new station had a single carriage bay and a single big-wheeled horse-drawn hose carriage. The first member of the station is recorded as firefighter McDonald, assisted by William (Bill) Griff and Frank Moorman. A few years later Moorman became Chief Officer.
In 1992, as an elderly woman, Moorman’s daughter Esther reminisced about living as a young girl in the family quarters upstairs at the Mitchell Street station during the years 1905-1920. She recalled the brigade horse being bedded down with straw each evening, the gardens that her father tended on site, and the station’s pet magpie who was trained by Chief Officer Moorman to sing an old English sea shanty.
In 1915, the era of mechanisation arrived. While Moorman was still in charge, the first motor hose carriage was acquired, thanks to the efforts of the Northcote Council. These days Northcote is equipped with a Mk5 Pumper.
Upgrades and improvements continued over the years and in 1969 tenders were called for a new station to be constructed. On 23 April 1971 a ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of a modern, new three-bay station suited to the needs of a twentieth-century urban fire station. In 2012, there was another significant remodelling of the station after Ambulance Victoria – which had been co-located in the station for a number of years – moved out. This allowed the station and the brigade it homes, to continue their important work in the protection of the Northcote community.