NZ firefighting history

Major incidents attended by New Zealand firefighters

Some of these incidents led to legislative changes.   More incidents will be added over time.

Seacliff Mental Hospital 1942

Ballantyne’s department store 1947

Sprott House 1969

Selected sources of firefighting history in New Zealand

If you are researching a firefighting relative, or the history of a brigade, these are some sources to investigate.   The New Zealand Fire Service was established on 1 April 1976 with the enactment of the Fire Service Act 1975.  Prior to this, firefighting was managed by Fire Boards and local authorities.  Therefore, the New Zealand Fire Service does not hold historic personnel records of firefighters.   Try the council archives for the town your relative was in, and Archives New Zealand, for records of firefighters.


Arnold, Rollo. (1994).  New Zealand’s burning : the settlers’ world in the mid 1880s. (Wellington: Victoria University Press)

Beaglehole, Helen. (2013). Fire in the hills : a history of rural firefighting in New Zealand. (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press)

Bruce, Allan W. (2009).  Into the line of fire : the tumultuous years of New Zealand ‘s Fire Brigades from 1947 to 2009.  (New Plymouth: The author)

McLean, G. (1992).  New Zealand tragedies : fires and firefighting.  (Wellington: Grantham House)

Links – Firefighters and Fire Service

Departmental Employment lists – Fire Service  (scroll down) – list of roll books and attendance records held by Archives New Zealand.  Most are at the Wellington and Auckland offices.

Nancy Swarbrick. Fires and fire services’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 28-Sep-11

New Zealand Fire Service – corporate website, find annual reports, contestable research, fire safety advice, and more.

Links – general history / biography

Digital NZsearch across newspapers, video, images, art works, and publications held in NZ libraries, museums, and other organisations.

Papers pastsearch digitised NZ newspapers

Index New Zealand – an index to newspapers and magazines

NZ Museumsif you know where your relative was located, find a local museum and see what records they hold

NZ libraries – public libraries often have genealogical or local history resources.  Find the library in the town your relative lived.

How do I access material?

Members of the New Zealand Fire Service (professional and volunteers) are welcome to borrow resources from the NZFS Library.

Members of the public  – please request any of the books listed from your local library.


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