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XXX Restricted Access @ MyQueenstown #4 - Alexandra Fire Station (Part I)

By my queenstown on Sunday, October 17, 2010 with 3 comments


Fire-fighting in Queenstown dates back to 1939. The colonial Auxiliary Fire Brigade had 15 officers and 60 firemen stationed at the Archipelago Brewery Company to protect British's economic and military interests and played vital roles in putting out fires in the nearby kampung villages in Alexandra Village and Mei Ling. Opened in February 1954, Alexandra Fire Station was the 3rd station in Singapore and it served an increasing population in Singapore's first satellite estate, Queenstown. Today, MyQueenstown Team will uncover the fire station's history, operations and other community activities in Restricted Access@MyQueenstown.

Alexandra Fire Station in the 1960s

Fires were common in pre-industrialised Singapore. Kampungs and villages were made from rattan and attap and they ensured that fires could engulf the entire village within seconds, with blessings from gales and breezes. One memorable fire that blazed across the night sky occurred in the squatter settlements at Bukit Ho Swee in 25 May 1961. Firefighters from Alexandra and Central Fire Station rushed to the site of fire and rescued numerous villagers from the jaws of the great fire. 2,200 attap houses were destroyed and 16,000 were made homeless. These homeless villagers were transported by military trucks to be resettled in newly built HDB estates, one of them Queenstown.

Bukit Ho Swee Residents took the trucks to Queenstown

Situated near the famous junction of Queensway and Alexandra Road, known as Rumah Bomba Circus (Malay for Fire Brigade House), Alexandra Fire Station was considered as the “busiest fire brigade house” for its extensive range of activities outside the station in the 1960s and 70s. Itinerant hawkers peddling wares were common and the area was well known for Malay street food such as satay, otak otak and mee rebus. The establishment of Queensway Shopping Centre also ensured a youthful vibrancy around the fire station which many residents had fondly memories of.


Alexandra Fire Station in the 1990s

Alexandra Fire Station in 1990s (Front View)

The relationship between the fire station, the police force and the Queenstown community inspired the construction of a complex to house both the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force under one roof. In 2002, the former site of Alexandra Fire Station at Queensway was demolished and shifted to a temporary premise at the former Police Reserve Unit at Tanglin Halt. In 2005, it returned to Queensway, where it was also the headquarters for the 1st Civil Defence Division.

Alexandra Fire Station in 2002 at Tanglin Halt 

 The modern fire station complex at Queensway
 
The heroics of fire fighters are duly exemplified in many popular films and dramas. Their courage and decisiveness in mounting rescue operations to search for trapped occupants in hazardous conditions have made Queenstown a safe home for our residents. 

Construction Accident at Fushionopolis

Alexandra Fire Station has a operational coverage which stretches from Farrer Road to the Southern Islands. Together with 5 other fire stations forming the 1st Civil Defence Division, they protect the Southern and Central region of Singapore from fires and respond to emergency ambulance calls to convey patients to the hospital. Furthermore, fire posts are erected in Bukit Merah, Telok Blangah and Sentosa within the Fire Station's coverage to enhance response time.

Operation Coverage of Alexandra Fire Station

The standard activation time for the fire station is 1 minute and its response time is 8 minutes. Besides having a comprehensive network of fire stations and fire posts, a clear and distinct command structure within in the SCDF is also crucial in rescue operations. The headquarters of SCDF command and control the various units through the divisions. Thereafter, these Civil Defence Divisions are responsible for their operations within their boundaries. Under the divisions are fire stations which provide immediate response to any incidents happening within their operational coverage.

 Major Ryan Ong (right) - Officer Commanding of the fire station

The commander of the Alexandra Fire Station takes charge of both the fire brigade unit and ambulance service. On one hand, the responsibilities of the fire brigade include fire fighting, conducting rescue and HAZMAT operations. On the other hand, the responsibilities of the ambulance unit incorporate rescue operations involving paramedics and provision of immediate medical attention and treatment. 

 Fire fighters at the fire station

There are 3 rotas (or shifts) in the fire station and approximately 30 fire fighters in each rota. Each rota consists of a rota commander whose main duties are to manage and plan all activities to ensure and attain an optimum level of operational readiness of the personnel under his charge to deal with all possible emergencies, be it fire, rescue or hazmat incidents. The chain of command is further passed on to section commanders and firemen. There are about 50 Full time National Servicemen (NSFs) in the fire station, serving the SCDF as part of their national service. They will discharge their duties as medics, firemen and section commanders. The rest of the fire fighting squads consist of regulars.

Equipment and appliances are kept neatly in cages

Strict discipline enforcement is fundamental to the Civil Defence forces in Singapore. The fitness of the fire fighters, their knowledge on handling  sophisticated appliances and teamwork are essential in rescue operations. Equipment drills, HAZMAT drills and CA drills are carried out daily to ensure that the personnel are operationally ready. Hydrant testing and maintenance of vehicles are also procedural routines for the fire fighters at Alexandra Fire Station. Physical training, in form of games and exercises, attempts to forge 'brotherly' bonds among the fire fighters.

Besides having a professional fire fighting force, modern equipment is used for rescue operations. Stay tune to Restricted Access@MyQueenstown next week for a glance on the operations and the equipment used in the fire station.
What are your memories of the fire station? Tell us in our facebook page now!

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...
October 18, 2010 at 10:08 AM

Another good feature story of our nostalgia & younger days.

Keep it coming in ^-^

JimmyNg

Yusof said...
October 22, 2010 at 12:04 AM

Nice...

reminds me of the mid 80s. i used to play around in the station coumpond and living quaters .

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