Although Brisbane now enjoys the benefits of a world-class fire and rescue service, the early years of Queensland’s voluntary fire brigades were marred by a number of issues that included a lack of consistent funding and poor water supplies.
The first major fire occurred in October 1860, followed by a second inferno in April 1864 which destroyed 14 shops in Queen Street. On 1 December 1864, the 3rd volunteer brigade was put to the test when the Great Fire of Brisbane broke out in the cellar of a drapery store. The blaze raged through the centre of the city, destroying 50 houses, two banks and three hotels.
It was not until 1881 that the first Fire Brigades Act and Brisbane Fire Brigades Board was established. The Brisbane Fire Brigade was formed the following year with John E. Hinton as the first Commander and Chief Officer.
Brisbane got its first full-time fireman in 1889 while the first full-time female firefighters in Queensland were employed in 1995.
Queen Street, Brisbane during Bulcock’s fire of 1864
Queensland State Archives Item ID 436303
John E. Hinton, first Chief Officer of the Brisbane Fire Brigade, served from 1882-1925 Image provided by Queensland Fire and Rescue Service