FIRES

The biggest fire attended by Stokes Valley fire brigade was at the Gracefield industrial complex when four acres of buildings were totally burnt out. It began at 4.45pm on February 14, 1958. Some of the companies which were heavy losers were Southward Engineering, Cable Price, the Forestry Department, Civil Aviation, Imperial Chemical Industries, Liscarth Engineering. A huge amount of tobacco, held under bond, was also destroyed.

Stokes Valley Brigade attended from about 6pm to 4am next morning and from about 9am to 3pm the next day. Appliances were rushed to the scene from Wellington Central, Newtown, Thorndon, Lower Hutt, Petone and Lower Hutt outstations including Stokes Valley. At the height of the blaze flames from the Imperial Chemical building reached 200 feet into the air. The overall loss was millions of pounds. A very large sum during 1958. Other major call-outs were to a plastics factory at Rata Street, Naenae, January 9, 1968 at 9.15pm; Tui Glen School, Stokes Valley February 6, 1972 at 3.48am when a prefab room was totally destroyed and the wall of an adjoining room was burnt out, this fire was considered to be arson, and loss at about $9500; Glassform Industries, Western Hutt Road, Lower Hutt June 22, 1872 at 7.3Oam, with a loss of thousands of dollars; Stokes Valley RSA club rooms gutted, July 2, 1973, 9.43pm, loss estimated to be in excess of $70,000 with many cups, trophies, medals and souvenirs lost; Caltex Oil Installations, Seaview, Lower Hutt, on January 1, 1977; Taita Central School, on February 2, 1979; Expandite Factory, Waione Street, Petone, November 21, 1980, 11.47pm, where the loss was approximately $1,000,000; Pilkington Glass Factory, Taita, on October 10, 1984 6.45pm, estimated loss $1,000,000.

Glassform Industries Ltd., Lower Hutt

Tui Glen Primary School

Other difficult fires within the immediate district were Mrs. Stella Bruce's house, Stokes Valley Rd, November 2, 1952 gutted; van Looy's house, Rakau Gr, Stokes Valley, February 23, 1962, total loss; McDonald's Furnishing Factory, George St, July 1962; Holborn house, March 1964; Self Help Store, August 9, 1981, estimated loss $100,000; house fire George St, November 1984; Tawhai School, Stokes Valley, September 15, 1985; house fire, Kamahi St, October 29, 1985. There has been loss of life in three cases, two within house fires - George St and Kamahi St, and the other in a car fire in Hanson Gr.

Fires Which Occurred Before There Was a Fire Brigade

The earliest known fire was in 1887 when a house was destroyed at the north end of the valley, about opposite where the pumps are located at the Stokes Valley Service Station. Others include, in 1900, a house on the main Rd, approximately three sections up from Manuka St on the left side of the Rd; 1918, Delaney's huge barn and implement shed, set alight by a careless itinerant who was smoking and fell asleep; 1923 (about) Jones's home, behind the present Tui Glen School. The displaced occupants of these homes were always billeted by local residents until new accommodation was found or a new home built. (Information supplied by long-time local resident Mrs Poppy Watts.)