2 Pump Retained.


? to 1972 Great Western Road KIRKWALL Orkney (Wooden building)            Photo
17/4/1972 Great Western Road KIRKWALL Orkney. KW15 1QS.                        Photo


1882 to 1883 A.C.Hebden, C.E. The Ayre
1883 to 1920 Firemaster Malcolm Heddle
1921 No book
1922 to 1929 Firemaster W Park
1930 to 1940 Firemaster D Oddie
1954 Firemaster Wm Grant
1972 Firemaster Peter Leslie
6/5/1977 to 13/6/2006 Station Officer David Linklater Norquay
2006 to 2008 Crew Managers are acting up
? Watch Manager Kirsten Glue (there Oct 2017)
2018 Watch Manager Erik Stout




  First Second Area Reserve
1990 GAS233X LAS974P  
1992 J368FAS GAS233X  
1998 J368FAS B816UST  
2000 M426XAS J368FAS  
2004 SY04CBV SY04CBX  
2007 (August) SY56BVG SY04CBV R688OST


LAS947P Dodge K1113/HCB Angus WrL
GAS233X Dodge G13c/Fulton and Wylie WrL
B816UST Dodge G13/Fulton and Wylie WrL
J368FAS Mercedes 1120/Fulton and Wylie WrL
M426XAS Mercedes 1124/Carmichael WrL
R688OST LDV 400 Convoy/HIFRS LFA
SY04CBV MAN 14.285 Wittlich/Emergency One WrL
SY04CBX MAN 14.285/Emergency One WrL
SY55BFX LDV 400 Convoy/H&IF&RS LFA
SY56BVG Scania P270/ISS/Emergency One WrL

SY04CBX had gearbox trouble so CBV was sent from Inverness Retained to replace it and when CBX was fixed it went to Inverness retained.


1882 to 1886 Volunteer Fire Brigade
1887 to 1941 Kirkwall Fire Brigade
1941 to 1948 National Fire Service
1948 to 1975 Northern Area Fire Brigade
1975 to 1983 Northern Fire Brigade
1983 to 2005 Highland and Islands Fire Brigade
2005 to Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service




The Northern Fire Area Administration Scheme Order, 1948

  Equipment Retained
  1 Towing Vehicle 1 Section Leader
  1 Large Trailer Pump 2 Leading Firemen
    10 Firemen



Big Fires 

March 1938 – Messrs R. Garden’s Ltd. Shops, Bridge Street.
May 1947 – The Albert Kinema, Albert Street.
8/1/1954 – Messrs P. C. Flett Ltd., Ironmongers, Albert Street. 2 appliances from Kirkwall and 1 from Grimsetter Airport


It has been agreed that Kirkwall Town Council employees who are members of the Fire Brigade shall suffer no deduction from wages when they have to answer a fire call during working hours.
(The Orcadian, Thursday, January 28, 1954. Page5.)


Kirkwall’s new £30,000 Fire Station Opened 

A new £30,000 Fire Station was officially opened in Kirkwall on Monday afternoon by Mr J. Donald Brown, the County Convener.
The station, sited in Great Western Road and within a few yards of the former timber framed station, is the 14th to be built in the area since the setting up of the Northern Fire Area Joint Committee in 1948.
Present at the opening ceremony were members of the Joint Committee who had flown up from Inverness. They included Mr George Cumming, chairman, Provost W. A. Smith of Inverness, Mr Alex Macrae, C.B.E., B.E.M., Mr Hill, Town Clerk of Inverness (Secretary of the Joint Committee), Firemaster Eric Macintyre and representations from different parts of the Area, which extends from Fort William northwards, as well as Provost Mrs Georgina Leitch and other Orkney representatives, and Kirkwall’s own Firemaster Mr Peter Leslie.
In his opening remarks, in which he welcomed both the County Convener and the Provost, the Chairman said that in Orkney there were two retained fire stations at Kirkwall and Stromness.


A new fire station was to be built also in Stromness when a site had been found. “With your help, I think we shall be able to get that all right,” he said.
In the Islands, he pointed out, there were volunteer Stations—in Hoy, South Ronaldsay, Shapinsay, Stronsay, Sanday and Westray. If funds permitted one would be established in Rousay, also.
He paid tribute to Mr Brown’s services to the Fire Joint Committee, of which he had been for seven years a full member, and a substitute member for two years previously.”
“He was a regular attender at meetings in all the Area and was a very good member. I would say it is through his efforts that you now have this fire station here today,” said Mr Cumming.
In his opening speech Mr Brown said:—
“I am grateful to you for inviting me to open this new fire station for it gives me the opportunity to throw some light on your finances which, from time to time, come in for some quite understandable criticism locally.
“I say ‘understandable’ because although we pay a smaller share of the area costs than any other local authority, the public have seen Orkney’s contribution more than doubled over the past 10 years. They also know that the fire brigade at Kirkwall and Stromness can be of no help to the people of the North and South Isles who constitute over 30 per cent of our population. Although most islands now have volunteer brigades.


“However there is another side to this picture which, if we are to be fair, must be taken into account. First of all, our two fire stations have been kept supplied with expensive modern appliances. Secondly both brigades are inspected and drilled regularly in up to date techniques by the District Fire Officer from Thurso and Mr Simpson assures me that he regards both brigades as being highly efficient. “And finally we are about to see opened this impressive new station costing some £30,000 which is in every way a great improvement on its predecessor and a credit to the burgh of Kirkwall.
“But that is not all. I am told that as soon as a new site can be obtained in Stromness— and I know that Stromness Town Council have a site in mind—that the Joint Committee will immediately be prepared to start building a new Fire Station there of similar standard to this one.
“So while all these facts and figures my be of less comfort to people living in the North or South Isles, they should certainly bring home to the ratepayers of the Mainland of Orkney that they are now getting a better return for their money than ever before.”


The new station is of concrete blockwork construction built off a reinforced concrete raft foundation. The roof of the main Appliance Area is of low pitch asbestos cement sheeting with a suspended ceiling and fibreglass insulation. The heating of this area is by means of wall mounted electric fan heaters. The floor finish is of quarry tiles, the walls plastered. The main doors are of galvanised steel, sliding vertically and are manually operated.
The ancillary accommodation, flat roofed and sited on either side of the appliance area consists of the station office, muster area, drying rooms, hoses and equipment room, breathing apparatus room, kitchen, lecture and recreation room, cloakroom with instant heat showers and hydrant store.
Fire hoses are dried on the 45ft high prefabricated steel tower in the yard, which tower is also used for training purposes and carries the fire siren on its top platform. Externally the walls of the station are finished in a dry dash chip.
Building operations started on the site in April, 1971, and progressed satisfactorily until completion in April of this year.
The main contractors were Orkney Builders Limited, Kirkwall. Sub contractors were: Plumber work, P. A. Sutherland, Kirkwall; electrical work, J. Rendall, Kirkwall; tiling, roughcasting and plastering, Andrew Tait, Kirkwall; painter work, George Bain, Kirkwall.
The main roof was supplied by Conder (Hardware) Limited, Winchester; the appliance bay doors supplied and erected by the Henderson Door Company of Edinburgh.
The drill hose tower was supplied and erected by Crofton Engineering Limited, Cambridge, and the furniture supplied by Pel Furniture Ltd., Glasgow.
The Architects were Sinclair Macdonald & Son, Thurso and Kirkwall, the Partner in charge J. G. Birnie. The Quantity Surveyors were John Baxter, Dunn & Gray, Glasgow.
(The Orcadian, Thursday, April 20, 1972. Page1.) 



<PHOTO> The new Kirkwall Fire Station in Great Western Road.
<PHOTO> The County Convener, Mr Donald J. Brown, is presented with a fireman’s axe by Mr George Cumming, Chairman of the Northern Area Fire Joint Committee, after the official opening of Kirkwall’s new £30,000 fire station.
(The Orcadian, Thursday, April 27, 1972. Page3.)


With the new brigade structure introduced in the summer of 2003 the 3 Divisions were re-organised into 2 Commands North and South, Kirkwall was put into North Command. Call signs remained the same.

Kirkwall had a call sign of C6 in The Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service, this was changed to V29, the new National Call Sign, when the Control at Inverness closed on 6/12/2016 and moved to Dundee.



The last two years have seen some spectacular fires in Orkney, fortunately none of them resulting in loss of human life. The devastating hill fire on 12 May 1984 which destroyed 1400 acres of moorland in North Hoy was followed on 4 January this year by the frightening fire in the Anchor Buildings in Bridge Street, when, for a few worrying hours, several adjoining properties in the densely built part of Kirkwall were also threatened. Precisely three months later, on 4 April, Trumland House in Rousay suffered extensive damage when the roof and third floor were completely destroyed by fire. Trumland House, built in 1872, and for so long associated with the famous, or infamous name of General Burroughs, was at the time in the process of being modernised and renovated as a hotel. How well equipped is Orkney to deal with such emergencies?
On the Mainland there are fire stations in Kirkwall and Stromness, both having two fire engines. These stations are in charge, of Station Officers Dave Norquoy and Jim Merriman respectively. One engine in each is kitted out to cover most emergencies such as oil fires, road accidents, rural fires or ship fires, while the other engine is designed to provide fire cover for the town itself. Of the personnel, Divisional Commander Ken Martin is the only member of the Highlands and Islands Fire Brigade in Orkney who is a full time employee. He has responsibility for all operational matters in Orkney, Shetland, Caithness & Sutherland - that is, for firefighting efficiency, fire prevention, legislation, training and liaison with water and building authorities. His men, whose ages on joining range from eighteen to thirty five, have to pass a stringent medical examination and eyesight test before they are accepted. As they are all on a twenty four hour a day call out basis, they must both live and work within a three mile radius of the town. They devote one evening each week to training, and must periodically visit and carry out inspections on premises that are considered "risk" premises such as the distilleries, hotels, the town hall, and the council offices so that, in event of fire, they are all familiar with the layout of the building. Courses must also be attended at Invergordon and at the Scottish Fire Training School at Gullane - these are usually instructors' courses for men who carry rank. Breathing apparatus training, too, has to be taken outside Orkney. For their work the men are paid a weekly retaining fee, a drill night fee, and a "turn-out" fee, with a resulting annual salary of, on average, about £1500.
The situation on the islands is rather more complex. There is a small fire engine housed in the little fire station at Longhope and a similar engine in temporary accommodation in St Margaret's Hope. These small engines carry a built in pump powered by their own engines as well as a portable pump. The other islands have portable pumps only. The small portable pumps can cope with a flow of up to two hundred gallons of water a minute and ten lines of hose are available. Ancillary equipment is also provided. As most of the islands now have a mains water supply, the fire brigade have been able to locate hydrants at suitable points on them. None of the isles' units carries breathing apparatus, however, because of the degree of specialist training required to ensure the men's safety while they are firefighting inside buildings. Firemen on the islands work on a volunteer basis and therefore are not paid a retaining fee, but when they are called out to a fire, and for their twice yearly training sessions, they receive the full hourly rate for the work. The same rate applies when they undertake any maintenance work needed on equipment. Of necessity, the age range of the volunteers on the islands is also rather more flexible. Unfortunately, in the smallest islands of Egilsay, Wyre, Graemsay, Papa Westray and Gairsay, however, no resident fire cover can be provided at all, because of the impossibility of recruiting enough suitable men to form a unit.
Although most firemen in Orkney today will be too young to remember many of the famous blazes of the past, older readers will no doubt have vivid memories of some of them. One of the earliest fires still within living memory must be "The Great Stromness Fire", as the Orcadian headlined it in February 1910. At two thirty in the morning on Friday 18 February flames were seen coming from the Farmers' Supply Stores owned by Mr S Baikie. The alarm was raised by a Mr Jack Lynch who was on duty at the gasworks. The fire spread quickly, however, and the roof caved in two hours later. After the fire had reached paraffin tanks at the rear, flames were seen shooting hundreds of feet in the air. So intense had been the heat that when the safe was burst open coins were found to be fused together. When the blaze was finally extinguished, there was nothing left of the front shop except the gables. The estimated cost of damage to the building was about £3000, with £5000 worth of stock also being destroyed. The newspaper reported that a fire of these proportions had not occurred in Stromness before.
A fire of equally horrific proportions, and at the time considered the worst Kirkwall had ever seen, broke out in the early hours of the morning of 5 March 1938 in Robert Garden's premises in Bridge Street, only yards away from the Anchor Buildings, scene of this January's fire. This building, known originally as The Gallery, was one of historic interest in the town, having been bought in 1718 by James Traill, writer, of Edinburgh. Some years later he had it rebuilt, and it then served as the town house of the Traills of Woodwick for over a century. Before Gardens acquired it in 1890, it had been a hotel, O'Connor's Hotel. The blaze was first spotted by foreman baker E Arnott who saw flames at the rear of the drapery premises. By the time the firefighters reached the scene, however, there was little they could do to save the building, but they were able to stop the flames spreading to neighbouring properties, including the Shell Mex depot. Alarmingly, sparks from the fire were blown as far as Craigiefield House. An editorial in the following week's Orkney Herald was scathing about the ineffectiveness of the firefighting equipment and the inadequacy of the Burgh's water supply. Only three hoses were available for use, and the flow of water from them was merely a "futile trickle". Despite the antiquated apparatus the brigade, under firemaster D. Oddie, and the volunteers performed heroically - indeed some people tackled the blaze with milk jugs and galvanised buckets "laughable in relation to the size of the fire!". The writer further points out that had nearby oil tanks gone up half of Kirkwall might have been flattened by the explosion.
Kirkwall suffered another bad fire on 8 May 1947. John Cooper, the storeman at Boots the Chemists in Albert Street, was returning to his work after breakfast when he stopped to look at some "stills" in the windows of the neighbouring Albert Kinema. As he did so, he realised that there was smoke in the cinema vestibule. The telephone exchange was at once alerted, and the operators in turn contacted the police, Kirkwall NFS, Hatston Army Fire Service, Highland Park Distillery Fire Brigade and the Petroleum Board Fire Brigade. Hose lines were quickly run through the Drill Hall, which was conveniently open, but within twenty minutes the whole four hundred seat cinema was ablaze. For some time at the height of the fire there was anxiety about the two timber yards in Junction Road, but fortunately a light wind carried sparks away from them. At the harbour, too, precautions had to be taken, with the Pass of Leny, carrying petrol, kerosene and gas oil, being diverted as she approached the pier. She had to anchor further out in the bay until the danger was past. Luckily no one was injured in the blaze, and once again adjoining premises were saved.
Following the recent fires on Hoy and at Trumland House, some criticism inevitably has been levelled at the speed with which requests for help can be answered, particularly as 999 fire calls are routed via Inverness. What exactly is the situation?
At the moment, when a fire call is received and a particular station has to be mobilised, an Orkney telephone operator is initially involved and he or she obviously can prove invaluable with local knowledge of the area concerned. Certainly Divisional Commander Martin would not like to see the disappearance of these local operators. As we go to press, however, it has been announced that the Kirkwall exchange will close in 1987. At Inverness the control system consists of a communications room, manned by a minimum of two people on a shift basis twenty four hours a day. Since all fire calls are relayed to their respective stations by radio communications, there is no delay via Inverness, and in the unlikely event of a breakdown in the radio link, the call would at once be sent by BT landline. All the Mainland firemen carry a "bleeper", so it is possible for some of them to be at the station within a minute of a call being received during the day and within five minutes at night. This "pager" system has meant an end to the eerie wailing of the call-out siren echoing through the town.
In the isles, people have commented that it seems time-wasting madness for a fire call to go to Inverness rather than straight to the local unit on the island concerned. As the volunteer units are not equipped with the "pager" system, however, and therefore calling out has to be done by telephone, the local officer in charge cannot afford to spend valuable time phoning each of his men individually when he could already be at the scene of a blaze. What happens with island fires is that Inverness operates what they call a "snowball" telephone system, whereby they contact each man in turn as quickly as possible, letting his telephone ring ten times and, if there is no answer, then moving on to the next man. By this method all available men can be summoned with the minimum of delay.
As long as the services of the local telephone operator with his specialized local knowledge are not dispensed with in the supposed interests of economy and cost cutting, it is hard to see how the system could be improved on, given the present distances and geographical difficulties involved. On the other hand, if we do lose the Kirkwall telephone exchange, the efficiency of the service could suffer.
Admittedly, in the outer isles at present, the system is not perfect. Since it is impossible for these isles to maintain for example four or six year secondary schools, a hospital or in some cases even a doctor, so the educational and medical provisions there are not ideal either. If we feel that these disadvantages are not acceptable in this day and age in any corner of a theoretically advanced country, what do we do? Deliberately depopulate that corner, or at least let natural depopulation take its toll, or make better fire protection yet one more valid reason for fighting for causeways or bridges? As things stand at the moment (and stand they will if we apathetically accept the "cost" argument without question), Orkney as a whole could not (and presumably will not) be better served than it is presently by Divisional Officer Martin, his thirty six part time firemen on the Mainland and the many volunteer men in the isles. They can do no more.
<PHOTO> Page 12. The burnt out shell of Baikie's Supply Stores 1910. Photo Tom Kent, courtesy County Library Archives.
<PHOTO> Page 13. The height of the fire at the Anchor Buildings early this year. Photo Charles Tait.
(Orkney View Vol. 3  December 1985 Pages 11,12,13 & 14)

<PHOTO> means there was a photo in the newspaper, the photo is not on this site.


If you know of any mistakes in this or have any additional information please let me know.


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