Four years after Karuah Rural Fire Brigade's dire need of a new station came to light, they finally, and officially, have one.
Brigade members, NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Rob Rogers, state and local government representatives attended the official opening of thew new station in its new location of Engel Avenue on Saturday, November 14.
"We're relieved that the long process in building a new fit for purpose station has ended and that it is now open," Superintendent Martin Siemsen, the NSW RFS Lower Hunter district manager, said.
"The old building had some fairly significant issues. The RFS, Port Stephens Council and the state government has worked together to remedy that.
"This very expensive but purpose built station is fit for the future for not just the brigade, but the community."
The station was officially opened by Port Stephens MP Kate Washington.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the gathering was limited to 20 people which included Taylor Martin MLC representing police and emergency services minister David Elliott, Port Stephens central ward councillor Sarah Smith and Port Stephens MP Kate Washington.
The official proceedings on Saturday also included the presentation of service medals to brigade members. The commissioner presented long service awards to Jenny Semple (10 years service), Jim Semple (first and second clasp for 31 years service) and Tony Hill (clasp for 20 years service).
A community open day at the new station will be scheduled as soon as restrictions permit larger gatherings.
The new Karuah RFS station replaces an old, volunteer-built structure in Wattle Street that was decaying rapidly, to the point that it had timber props holding the walls and windows up.
Karuah RFS publicly called on the government in July 2016 to do something about the brigade's sub-standard station.
While Karuah's station was listed for "priority replacement" at the time, there was no relief in sight until possibly 2020. Improvements were made to the ailing RFS station later in 2016.
In February 2019, Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Catherine Cusack and then state election candidate Jaimie Abbott announced a $1.1 million state government commitment to building a new station.
Following community consultation in selecting a new site for the station, construction began in December 2019.
The building was complete and keys handed to the brigade in July 2020.
A book detailing the history of the Karuah Rural Fire Brigade was launched at the station opening.
Researched by Paul Mulvaney of the Karuah Local History Group, the book traces the development of the brigade from a group of locals with two 44-gallon drums of water and a hand pump on the back of a trailer through to the current Cat 1 vehicle in the new Engel Avenue station.
"The group was originally the Karuah Volunteer Bushfire Brigade and it then became the Karuah Rural Fire Brigade in September 1997," Mr Mulvaney said.
"The book details the different vehicles used over the years, from the Blitz truck, Studebaker 6-wheeler, Dodge V8 to the various ISUZU vehicles now used."
Mr Mulvaney said Karuah Local History Group had researching the story of the brigade on its list of topics for many years.
The Examiner's article announcing the state government's funding commitment to building a new station prompted the history group to get started on the project.
Mr Mulvaney started to research and collect photographs for the book in February 2019.
On November 14, 2020 he presented a copy of the book to the NSW RSF commissioner in Karuah.
Karuah RSL Club and Karuah Working Together funded the printing of the book. Proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Karuah brigade.
Books, $30 each, are available to buy from The Karuah Centre in Tarean Road, next to the Service Station.
They will also be sold at the car boot sale at The Karuah Centre on the morning of Saturday, December 5.