About 140 years of Queenstown firefighting history’s been given to Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum for safe-keeping.
Recently, the Queenstown volunteer fire brigade dropped off its paper records to the museum — which filled about 10 banana boxes.
Museum director David Clarke says while the brigade was formed in 1864, making it one of the oldest in the South Island, the minutes books go right back to the 1880s.
‘‘The early minutes books [are] probably the most impressive thing for anyone doing history or research,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s an interesting look into how the early fire brigades operated.’’
Clarke says the greatest scourge of the early settler was fire, given candlelight was the only option at nighttime.
‘‘So, they very quickly set up a fire brigade [here], and one of the photos we’ve got from 1869 shows a little shed, and all they would have had would be … a cart with hoses on it, and you had to pump the handle up and down to get the water, and you had bucket-chains with the local people.
‘‘The chances of saving some thing was limited, but they did do some amazing things.’’
Clarke says the minutes, in particular, chart the changes of the brigade, and the area.
While still volunteer-run today, the brigade’s duties today are ‘‘chalk and cheese’’, with callouts ranging from fires to car crashes and other emergency incidents, along with the odd call to rescue a cat or a duck from a tree.
He’s impressed with how conscientious the brigade’s been in keeping the records, and their understanding of how important it is to keep that sort of documentation.
Clarke says the museum stores all sorts of records for different groups and organisations who either don’t know what to do with them, or don’t have anywhere to safely keep them.