STATION 25: OAKLEIGH
There is scant mention in the historical record of a fire service for the Oakleigh area until after 1890, when the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) first delivered water mains to the borough. In 1891, with a reticulated water supply now in place, Oakleigh’s Mayor Davey made a request for the newly formed Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to provide firefighting services to the area. A small brigade was established that year consisting of one fireman, his auxiliaries, a hand-pulled hose reel and a direct phone line to the central city station.
The brigade was originally housed in a building located behind the council chambers in Palmer Street. During these early days the bell at the nearby Holy Trinity church was used to sound the fire alarm until the church objected, arguing that this arrangement was ‘inconvenient and might be confusing to its parishioners’. In 1892, a dedicated fire bell was installed.
Even after the establishment of an MFB station in Oakleigh, local help was still required to get the brigade and its gear to fires. Cabbies, upon hearing a fire alarm, would dash to the station in their horse-drawn cabs to score the job of pulling the fire reel for payment of ‘a few shillings’. A report from 1894 describes the Oakleigh brigade also resorting to other unconventional means. Fighting a fire in a paddock on Poath Road, with the fully outstretched hose unable to reach the flames licking at the top of a tree, firefighters opened fire on the branch with a shot gun in order to sever the burning limb and extinguish it at ground level.
In 1896 the station was serviced by a telephone line, a hydrant and a 600-foot reel, although this length was deemed insufficient and another 700 feet of hose was soon added. Then, in 1903, experienced firefighter William (Bill) Griff transferred from the station at Northcote to head the Oakleigh brigade, where he would remain as Chief Officer until his retirement in 1926. Griff oversaw some significant changes, starting with the introduction of a horse-drawn hose cart. He was also in charge during the transfer of the brigade to a new station building in Atherton Road. By 1919 the brigade had benefitted from further modernisation with the acquisition of a Hotchkiss motorised engine, 1200 feet of hose and a chemical extinguisher.
In 1932 a new, more substantial brick station was built at a site adjacent to the previous station, this time on the corner of Atherton Road and Clyde Street. Designed to fit into its residential surroundings, the building was described at the time as being of ‘domestic character’. Following its decommissioning as a fire station in 2007, the building was converted into flats where residents enjoy the charm of this historic building to this day.
The current Oakleigh Fire Station No. 25 and Southern Zone Office is now directly across the road from the previous building, at 100 Atherton Road. It was completed in 2009 at a cost of $4.23 million and is fitted with a Mk5 Pumper, Heavy Rescue, Ladder Platform and Teleboom.