Stoked: Queenstown chief fire officer Terry O'Connell outside the volunteer brigade's new HQ


Queenstown fireys are chuffed to bits with their newly-refurbished $4 million station on Isle Street.

The vollies have been holed up in temporary accommodation in the back yard since September last year, with scaffolding and awnings covering the trucks.

It meant a miserly winter, with the water in the trucks freezing during one bitterly-cold night.

‘‘That caused a bit of a stir, we had to call on our neighbours at Frankton and Arrowtown until we got them thawed out,’’ chief fire officer Terry O’Connell says.

‘‘It was a bit of a nightmare at times, but we had to make do.’’




The brigade moved into the renovated building on October 17, and O’Connell says the team was ‘‘ecstatic’’ with what he’s calling a ‘‘palace’’ that exceeded all expectations.

Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade moved to Isle St in 1974 from its original home on the corner of Shotover and Brecon streets.

The first building cost a humble £8 and ten shillings — but that was more or less just a wooden shack.

Today’s building has a five-star earthquake rating and meets national building standards in full.

The protective equipment’s been moved into a separate locker room for the vollies to quickly grab on response, while the operations room’s been expanded and kitted out with the latest tech.

There’s now room for six firefighters to live in full-time, as opposed to four,
and a further two rooms for additional staff to stay the night, instead of one.

Palatial: The new lounge inside the Queenstown fire Station

That’s been made possible by extending out the second storey that was added to the building in ‘99.

Vollies staying at the station can come and go as they please in the day, but if they go away from the district overnight, they have to leave their room clear for somebody else to come in and cover their place.

Those fireys are the first to respond to calls in the unsocial hours, and the
extra rooms allow O’Connell to ensure he’s got the right skill mix of staff in the station.

The boss, who’s in his second stint as chief, having taken over a few days before lockdown, says he’s grateful to his predecessor Andrew Bary and the last regional manager David Guard for bringing about the building changes.

Alongside the bedrooms upstairs is an extended training area with a huge TV screen for e-learning, and a bar, and downstairs there’s a kitchen, social area and bathrooms.

O’Connell says the brigade now boasts a future-proofed building to boot with a strong, healthy team.

‘‘We had members that because of Covid, circumstances changed for them and they had to move on … but we’ve got six new recruits at the moment, we don’t seem to have too much problem recruiting, a lot of people want to join.’’