In 1970, Hon. ‘Akau’ola, Minister of Police, submitted a report to Government on the Kingdom’s firefighting capabilities, or rather the lack of them. Consequently, in 1972, the Australian Government provided the services with a Fire Officer, Mr. J.K. Mundy, to survey and evaluate existing legislation, water supply, fire equipment and expertise – hence the Mundy Report.
Transfer of Fire Service from Ministry of Works to the Police
Late in 1978 Government decided to transfer responsibility for the fire service from the Ministry of Works to the Police Department, principally on the grounds of the latter’s 24 hour availability and personnel on call. There was only one fire truck in the Kingdom at that time and it was looked after by Niki Latu (Tetea) of Tungua/Fasi.
Fire Service Act 1978
The Tonga Fire Service was established on 19 September, 1978 by the enactment of the Fire Service Act [No. 18 of 1978] and received the Royal Assent on 29 June, 1979. Nothing more was achieved until early 1979 when ‘Akau’ola sent a Fire Consultant, Major J.W. Snelling, with a brief to review the situation and to update the Mundy Report.
Fire Chief Fire Officer, Major John W. Snelling
Major Snelling spent six weeks in the Kingdom during April and May, 1979 and rapidly assessed Tonga’s fire needs. Seconded as Fire Adviser from the Federal Government of Australia to the Kingdom, he was appointed Chief Fire Officer in October, 1980 but was not able to take up his post until January, 1981. At that time, Mr Harry H. Bisset, Planning and Training Officer rendered invaluable service to the Fire Service by attending to administrative matters.
Pioneer Firemen Recruited Beginning in 1978
On the tacit understanding that Australia had agreed to fund a modern firefighting service in the Kingdom, Major Snelling interviewed as selected the nucleas of a fire brigade. Police Officers were transferred from Police. Shown here under are the 9 pioneer Firemen of the Service:-
Police Commander S. Kolokihakaufisi with the Recruit Fireman 1988
1st Fire Recruit Course in the Kingdom.
- Fire Officer Poutele Kaho Tu’ihalamaka
- Senior Fireman ‘Alele K. Vaihu
- Senior Fireman Sateki Tupou
- Leading Fireman Penisoni Taukapu
- Leading Fireman ‘Isinito Finau
- Fireman Samuela Huni
- Fireman ‘Inoke Folau
- Recruit Fireman Tu’amoheloa Loseli
- Recruit Fireman Kelemete Vahe
2nd Fire Recruit Course in the Kingdom
- Recruit Fireman Poasi Folau
- Recruit Fireman Lofia Heimuli
- Recruit Fireman Taniela Koloamatangi
- Recruit Fireman Semisi Taungatu’a
- Recruit Fireman Semisi Talakia’atu
- Recruit Fireman Mosese Maka
- Recruit Fireman Tupu’ivaha Samate
- Recruit Fireman Tevita Maka
- Recruit Fireman Tevita Tukutukunga
- Recruit Fireman Mesake ‘Otumuli
- Recruit Fireman Lemeki Vaipulu
- Recruit Fireman ‘Alone Veatufunga
- Recruit Fireman Paleiono Katoa
- Recruit Fireman Tonga ‘Olie
- Recruit Fireman Halatau Vaihu
- Recruit Fireman Sione T. Ika
Training was arranged with the Suva Fire Brigade and this was to be completed between August and November, 1979. Arrangement were also made for Fire Officer P.K.Tu’ihalamaka to be trained in Australia, followed by a five months operational attachment with the Hong Kong Fire Brigade.
Construction of Fire Station
Plans for the new fire station in Nuku’alofa have been prepared and construction commenced in 1981. With the arrival of Major Snelling the development in the improvement in the implementation of the fire project was accelerated.
Protracted negotiation continued throughout 1981 to implement the Snelling Report (which updated the Mundy Report) but progress was slow due to Australia’s insistence on adhering strictly to their procurement procedure.
Towards the end of 1981 the Australian Government arranged for their original consultant, Mr. J.K.Mundy to visit the Kingdom to finalise a variety of technical details connected with equipment and water reticulation. Mr Mundy arrived in early 1982 and finalized the building of the station building in Nuku’alofa.
Departure of Major Snelling
Hon. 'Akau'ola, Minister of Police had this to say on Major Snellings departure:- "Major J.W.Snelling Chief Fire Officer was an exceedingly fortuitous addition to the Service. His tremendous drive and ability, experience and knowledge undoubtedly put the service on its feet in a period where lesser experts would still be finding their feet, let alone set a course which the Service willl follow for years to come. It was not readily possible to believe that a person with so much dedication and energy could establish a new Service in so short a period. He leaves with our admiration and very good wishes for the future "[Annual Report 1981 p/108.]
Opening Of Fire Service Headquarters, Nuku’alofa
Her Excellency Miss Maris King, Australian High Commissioner to Tonga formally presented Government with the newly constructed Fire Service Headquarters situated on the southern boundary of the Police Training School, Nuku’alofa on 16th July, 1982.
The Minister of Police, Hon. ‘Akau’ola accepted this extremely fine building, equipped to a high degree including nine fire appliances commonly known as the “Melbourne”.
Their Majesties the King and Queen formally opened and inspected the building. During the afternoon tea, members of the Service put on a one hour demonstration covering many aspects of firefighting including rescue of persons from a six story building.
The entire fire project, including a reservoir at Mataliku, hydrants, radio equipment, appliances and the Headquarter building cost $500,000 – a noble and generous gift from the people of Australia to the Kingdom for the protection of life and property in case of fire.
Their Majesties King Taufa’ähau Tupou IV & Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho and Her Excellency Miss Maris King, Australian High Commissioner at the Opening Ceremony of the Fire Service Headquarters, Nuku’alofa, 16th July 1982.
Fire Service Headquarters building, Nuku’alofa.
Opening of Fire Service Neiafu, Vava’u
On Monday 6th July, 1987 His Majesty the King formally opened and inspected the newly constructed building situated at the corner of Tupoulahi Rd. and Tu’i Rd., Neiafu.
The Service was deeply honoured with His Majesty’s gracious presence at the opening ceremony, and sincere appreciation and gratitude to His Highness Malietoa Taumafili II of Western Samoa and Governor Lutali of American Samoa and distinguished guests.
Hon. ‘Akau’ola with members of the Tonga Fire Service at the Opening Ceremony of the Fire Service, Neiafu, Vava’u, 6th July 1987.
Furthermore, there was a need to open up Fire Stations on the other main islands.In 17 september 2006, Fire Station 3 situated at Pangai, Ha’apai was opened to serve the people of Ha’apai.
In 2006, Fire Station 4 situated at Angaha, ‘Eua opened.
With the population on the main island (Tongatapu) increasing, there was a need to erect more fire stations to cope with the heavy demands placed on the Central Fire Station.
Therefore on 26 November 2007, Fire Station 5 opened to cater for the people on the Eastern side of the Island and Fire Station 6 opened up on 27 November 2007 to cater for the Western Side of the Island. Both these Fire Stations were built with the assistance of the Japanese Government. Today – The Services is no longer known as Tonga Fire Services but as Tonga Fire & Emergency Services with the new Tonga Fire & Emergency Services Act 2014 being enacted on 16th November 2014.