Completed in 1909 at Hill Street at a cost of $64,000, the Central Fire Station is the oldest surviving fire station in Singapore. Nicknamed “blood and bandage” due to its prominent red-and-white appearance, the fire station was also formerly known as Hill Street Fire Station.
Prior to the late 19th century, Singapore had no proper firefighting unit. Fires were common and often plagued the places that had many wooden houses. Once started, the fires spread quickly and resulted in disastrous loss of life and properties. It was not until 1869 when the British colonial government assembled a group of voluntary force to help out in the firefighting.
Central Fire Station was not the first fire station in Singapore. When the Municipal Commission set up the Singapore Fire Brigade in 1888, its fire station was built at Cross Street. However, the equipment and facilities of the station were non-professional and outdated, consisting mainly of horse-drawn fire engines. The firemen were also ill-trained in their fire-fighting skills.
In 1904, professional English firefighter Montague William Pett arrived at Singapore, and would help Singapore modernised its firefighting force. Central Fire Station was built under his plan, serving as the new headquarters for the fire brigade. New modern equipment replaced the outdated ones, and the firefighters went through tough professional trainings to improve the efficiency of the force.
The fire station was well-equipped with four portable water pumps, an engine house, a lookout tower, a repair shop, training ground and living quarters for the firemen and their families. The professionalism and efficiency of the firefighting force were so established that a certain number of British firemen was retained by the invading Japanese forces to continue their services during the Second World War.
In 1989, the Singapore Fire Service was integrated with the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF), which was set up three years earlier. Central Fire Station was gazetted as a national monument in 1998, but still remains in use till this day.
The building has become an iconic landmark in the area around Hill Street, marked as Singapore’s Museum Planning Area that also includes the National Museum of Singapore, MacDonald House and the colourful Old Hill Street Police Station (also known as MICA (Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts) Building).
Central Fire Station also houses the Civil Defense Heritage Gallery since 2001, introducing the history of firefighting service in Singapore to the visitors. Antique fire engines and brief summaries of former fire stations in other parts of Singapore, such as Bukit Timah Fire Station, Paya Lebar Fire Station and Old Sembawang Fire Station, are showcased.
Published: 03 July 2012