A fully refurbished Manly Fire Station was reopened today (Friday, 10 December) in a VIP ceremony.
A contingent of guests and firefighters were joined by Emergency Services Minister David Elliott, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Commissioner Paul Baxter, Member for Manly James Griffin and Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan to celebrate the reopening of the historic Manly Fire Station at Sydney Road, Fairlight.
A $2.9m refit was needed to bring the hundred-year-old heritage building up to modern firefighting standards. The project was initiated by one of the firefighters at Manly Station, Earnie Garland (image above) who has since been promoted to the rank of Station Officer at Lane Cove, but returned today to see the finished job.
Mr Garland said the Manly Station holds a special place in his heart, given the history and importance to the local community.
“As one of the highest points in the area, if we were slow to put the flag up in the morning we’d get calls from members of the public asking us to hurry up because they wanted to see which way the wind was blowing today,” said SO Garland.
FRNSW Deputy Commissioner Megan Stiffler who oversees strategic capability for FRNSW was at today’s station opening and said it was important to preserve history but also prepare the station to meet future needs.
“We’ve got a mission to bring our fire facilities up to a modern standard. A lot of that surrounds safe areas, we want to make sure contaminated pieces of equipment aren’t blended into our safe areas.
“As a fire service, it’s really important to honour our history and the things we want to celebrate. As we become a more modern fire service, we will also introduce new practices but honouring the past is a critical piece.
“I’d like to see our fire stations being safe places for communities. So no matter where you are in your life, you know it’s a welcoming place. Our firefighters will welcome any part of the community in their time of need. I see us moving beyond just a building where we turn out fire trucks to a place where community is drawn and knows that they’ll get supported,” said DC Stiffler.
Manly Fire Station has been equipped with a public entry off the Thornton Street side of the building. Workspaces and training areas have also been built, along with a new exercise and meal preparation area.
Inspecting the refurbished Manly Fire Station with Minister Elliott and Commissioner Baxter, Member for Manly James Griffin (image above, centre) was impressed with the new facilities.
“Our firefighters need to be well-resourced and equipped to protect the community from bush fires, motor vehicle crashes, structure fires and other emergencies,” said Mr Griffin.
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott joked that the result was so good, it would become the ‘Ministerial summer residence’.
“I can’t believe how good this work looks. Congratulations to Fire and Rescue for not only the work that you do here in Manly but particularly for the way that you have looked after this wonderful heritage facility while making sure that it remains fit for purpose.
“For the past 100 years, firefighters have responded from their Manly Fire Station to major incidents ranging from industrial and residential fires to floods, storms and serious road accidents.
“This $2.9m investment from NSW Government into the station upgrade will provide better emergency response coverage for Manly and surrounding communities now and into the future,” said Minister Elliott.
FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter thanked the team who ensured the refurbishment work was completed to allow the station to reopen, fit to continue serving the community.
“Manly Fire Station has been serving the beaches of Sydney from this current location for now 100 years. The role of a modern firefighter however would be unrecognisable to those that served here a century ago.
“Upgrading our stations, like this project, is an important part of ensuring that our firefighters remain prepared for anything. This $2.9m upgrade added a new training room, designated clean areas for our firefighters accommodation and their equipment, separate male and female amenities, improved recreational spaces and heritage works to restore the historically significant public asset,” said Comm Baxter.
“At the end of the day though, it’s not actually about fire stations and fire trucks, it’s all about our people. The calling of our firefighters in recent times has starkly demonstrated that our involvement and multi-agency incident responses to severe flooding, as well as the whole of government response to the ongoing pandemic, demonstrates that being a firefighter today is about so much more than just fighting fires.
“Our purpose is protecting the irreplaceable. Being prepared for anything, which is written on the side of our trucks, means that we help anyone anywhere, anytime. That’s a lofty goal and to be fair we will never arrive there. It’s not a destination. It’s a way of thinking about all of our capabilities.
“Most of our firefighters when they join Fire and Rescue NSW, list helping people as their motivation. As firefighters we are uniquely placed to do this, not only in emergencies, but also proactively engaging with our communities.
“Like all of Fire and Rescue NSW, our crews here in Manly are far more than just a fire service. Last year they responded to nearly 1,400 incidents of which just 150 were fire related. Firefighters from the Manly Fire Station in just the last 12 months, even though the restraints of the pandemic prevented us from mixing and community events, still managed to make 900 community safety and engagement activities, or as I like to call them home invasions, going into people’s homes, and giving them advice on how to be safe in their home.
“This is a milestone opportunity to thank all the firefighters past and present who have served the Manly community. I’m pleased that you’re now even better placed to do this, with this home and these new upgraded facilities. Seeing an old station just like this, in such an iconic location, restored to serve for another 100 years gives a great deal of satisfaction.
“It’s a far more diverse workforce. 100 years ago there weren’t any women firefighters in our ranks when the station was originally built. Also the new modern practices to keep our firefighters safe, from what we know now to be the dangerous carcinogen exposures is a giant leap forward. To be able to do so within an old heritage building like this, that will leave the footprint and the facade of the station here for the generations to come is just priceless,” said Comm Baxter.
One of the interesting observations of this morning’s reopening of Manly Fire Station was the obvious camaraderie between all ranks of firefighters present. The preservation of the history of the building, while making the station fit for the next generation of firefighters to protect the community, was a clear source of pride and common bond for all present.
The station refurbishment took just under 12 months, with some delays imposed by COVID lockdowns. Manly Fire Station continued to operate from temporary premises at Ethel Avenue, Brookvale while the renovation was underway.
Images: Northern Beaches Advocate