The Broome Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service is a volunteer organisation and a crucial part of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) in WA. In Broome DFES incorporates the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade, the State Emergency Service, Marine Rescue and the Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service.

The volunteer fire brigade started out at the Public Works Department (PWD) yard next to the museum, but quickly moved to the station building on the corner of Guy and Walcott Street. This was a single motor room and was officially opened on the 24th November 1971. We had an old red Bedford truck which we still own, though it is now out of commission. We now have three fire trucks in our new building on Frederick Street, during the fire season we have two or three extra trucks come up from Perth, for backup.

To be a volunteer you need to be dedicated to the cause and reasonably fit - though you can get fit as you go. It is not something you can take lightly, it is serious business, sometimes life threatening. Once you become a volunteer, you get a lot out of it, a lot of self-satisfaction. For example, if you have been to a house fire and you have saved nanna and grandpa’s photos, that is a great feeling. Fire destroys everything. Sometimes not a lot can be saved, and the most important thing is someone’s life. The adrenalin is pumping when you are at an incident. You have to control it and also use it at the same time. We also visit schools to educate kids about fire prevention and we hope that that education will save someone’s life.

Much of our training is done at the weekend, though sometimes we need to train during the week, we are really appreciative of employers that support this. They may lose their worker for a couple of days but what they end up with is a trained fire fighter - a great asset to any business. The skills and qualifications developed during these training courses can be carried through into both your work and personal life. My daughter started as volunteer with the brigade ten years ago and has just graduated in Perth as a career fire fighter. The Deputy Commissioner for DFES just retired and he began as a volunteer in Armadale. I am semi-retired and called a Support Member. When I was an active member, I was the Captain. I started off as a volunteer in 1981 and then became the Apparatus Officer, responsible for all the breathing equipment and maintenance and then I took on the role as Foreman (Lieutenant). I now hold the rank of Ex-Captain, which is an honorary rank.

Most of our volunteer’s work, so we have a roster system for the night time 8pm - 6am and during the day everyone is that is available turns out to calls. With the electronic age, when someone calls 000, the operator might be anywhere in Australia, and they put the call through to Perth and then our communication team in Perth call us. All the phones are linked, so the first person to answer takes the call and the others listen in, then you can have a conference and make decisions.

We train every Wednesday night. We practice running out hoses, vehicle rescues, regular wearing of breathing apparatus - It is stipulated we must wear it for a number of hours per month. So, besides attending emergency calls for structure fires, car crashes, chemical spills and bush fires the volunteers have to attend regular training and maintain vehicles and equipment. It is full on for a group of volunteers.

For quite a number of years Broome have been the busiest volunteer fire station in the state. A few interesting statistics, the number of emergency call outs for 2017/18 year was 386 and for 2018/19 was 320.

Broome Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service covers the town boundary. Any fire inside the boundary that is the town peninsula out to Morrell Park and around the back of the Broome Caravan Park is our specific area of responsibility, though we work together with the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade and cover a much wider area for bushfire. We also have the role of containing Hazardous Material spills, providing Confined Space Rescue and Road Crash Rescue. We often travel as far north as Derby and south to Sandfire to attended road crash rescues and hazmat incidents, however we can be requested to attend these incidents anywhere in the state.

There are times when situations can be traumatic, and counselling is provided. We need to be prepared for many confronting scenes including injury and death and this can be very confronting. We also have some fantastic volunteers that take on the additional role of a Peer Supporter and they ensure that other volunteers get the professional support required if needed.

Today we have a great facility and a dedicated group of very well-trained volunteers. None of this would have been possible if it was not for our founding member Mr Maurice Gower.

Maurice (Mo) Gower was the Assistant Wharfinger and in 1970 was sent to Perth to do a fire training course. At the end of the course Mo asked the instructor who they should call if they ever had a fire at the wharf in Broome. The instructor told him that they should call the local fire brigade. Mo knew that they didn’t have one. So, the instructor gave Mo details of how to form a brigade. When Mo returned to Broome, he was struggling to get much interest. That was; until they had a fire at the goods shed on the old jetty. It had been a magnificent cargo shed with beautiful timbers and was completely destroyed in the fire. This was the impetus that made people realise the need for a fire service. It was officially formed on the 8th February 1971.

Mo Gower was the founding member, inaugural secretary and served the volunteer fire service for over 48 years, he has a fire appliance named in his honour. He was awarded the AFSM (Australian Fire Service Medal) in 2001, which is the highest award a firefighter can receive from the Australian Government.

“Mo has done his job. He can be proud of what he has achieved,” said Kevin Bullen.

(footnote: Mo (Maurice) Gower passed away on 25th August 2019)