THE Nowra Fire Station in Bridge Road reopened on Thursday after being closed for five years following a series of health scares.
A full refurbishment of the Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) station, worth $570,000 has given the local retained firefighters a state of the art facility.
The reopening of the building also coincided with the arrival of a new appliance, bringing the investment in the Nowra Fire District to around $1 million.
The station was abandoned and firefighters relocated in September 2008, following concerns about contamination from the council gas works, which used to be located next door.
Several members of the family of former brigade Captain Joe Hyam died after contracting cancer related illnesses, and Bridge Road residents claimed there was a cancer cluster in the area.
The retained brigade was originally relocated to the Flinders Industrial Estate site, before moving into a more permanent home in Haigh Avenue.
Tests conducted by three independent companies, plus studies by Shoalhaven City Council, confirmed the Bridge Road site was safe for use as a fire station.
Area Commander Regional South Chief Superintendent Ken Murphy said FRNSW had undertaken extensive consultation with Nowra’s full-time and retained (on-call) firefighters about the move.
“The site has been approved for us to resume use,” he said.
“It is fantastic to have the retained firefighters back in what is a very functional building. Not only does it provide us with a location for our retained firefighters, but in times of major emergencies in the Shoalhaven area this will be a base for our task forces that come down from Sydney.”
Extensive internal refurbishments have been carried out, including new male and female bathrooms and change rooms, a new training room, new offices, a new mess and additional training areas, while the downstairs level has been remoulded.
External remediation works have also been carried out including the removal of all existing concrete, which was replaced with a new hard surface, and new drainage installed.
Nowra Captain Neil Rutledge praised the work.
“It’s excitement overload for the boys,” he said.
“To have the station refurbished is fantastic but to receive a new appliance as well was a huge surprise.
“Over half of the 21 retained firefighters were stationed here prior to the move, so they have seen some major changes.
“For the rest, it is also a huge change from the temporary accommodation we have been in.”
The new appliance is designed for regional areas.
“It not only carries firefighting equipment but also has Hazmat and rescue equipment,” Chief Superintendent Murphy said.
It replaces a service exchange vehicle the local brigade had operated for 12 years.
Captain Rutledge said local crews couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of the new appliance.
Firefighters will undertake training on the new truck over the next two weeks.
The full-time fire crews will remain in their current station in Norfolk Avenue in the Flinders Industrial Estate at South Nowra, which will be renamed Shoalhaven Fire Station.