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THE PIONEERS THE BUSH FIRE BRIGADE
 
During the first few weeks of 1926, a series of disastrous bushfires claimed more than fifty lives in Victoria and laid waste to more than 900,000 acres of Gippsland's prime forest regions.
These fires reached a peak of intensity on 14th February -a day that was to be remembered for many years as Black Sunday. No loss of life had been recorded in the Dandenong Ranges, but a fire raging from Monbulk to South Belgrave exacted a heavy toll in livestock, property and bush land.
These disasters highlighted the need in Ferntree Gully for some form of organised resistance to the recurring seasonal menace of bushfires. Accordingly, a public meeting was convened in the old Shire Hall on the Main Road to consider the possibility of forming a fire brigade.
The meeting, held on Thursday, 25th February 1926, was chaired by Councillor G.H. Knox (later to become Brigadier the Hon. Sir George Knox, MLA) in whose honour the City is named.
After some deliberation, the meeting unanimously endorsed the motion sponsored by the Rev. A.H. Westley and the Rev. Fr. T.J. Little that a district fire brigade be formed and that it be designated the Ferntree Gully Bush Fire Brigade".
Thus was Ferntree Gully's first organised fire-fighting force created An executive, comprising the President, Mr Joseph Carroll, three vice- presidents and a committee of management was elected to see to the administration of the Brigade.
Mr J. Murphy was elected as the first Captain of the Brigade, whilst each of thirty-eight men, in addition to the executive members, agreed to "enrol as a member of the Ferntree Gully Bush Fire Brigade and also to obey its laws and all lawful commands of its fighting officers".
The names of the foundation officers and members of the Brigade are listed in Appendix "A".
With the preliminary formalities completed, the Brigade turned its attention to the formidable task of acquiring sufficient fire-fighting equipment to enable it to function effectively. Being no central organisation, as we know it today, the Brigade was compelled to rely entire upon its own resources. A public appeal for funds was launched and, in a further attempt to bolster its finances, the Brigade levied an annual membership fee of one shilling on each firefighter.
Times were difficult, however, and money was scarce, and the resulting dearth of equipment confronted the Brigade with a problem that was to recur constantly throughout its entire life. In fact, from the very outset, the firefighters themselves were obliged to provide and maintain much of their own fire-fighting equipment.
The need for a public fire alarm in Ferntree Gully prompted enquiries of certain traders in Melbourne, but as the response did not suit the Brigade's requirements, advertisements for a bell were placed in the daily newspapers, the "Age" and the "Argus". This action produced the desired results, and in October 1926 the Secretary was able to report that he had "purchased the bell from the old 'Ozone' from Captain Booth for six pounds same to be fetched from Port Melbourne on the 26th".
The bell was erected on a tower in the Council yard on the Main Road, a directional code was devised, and the Secretary was instructed to have signal notices posted on the tower itself and "at suitable corners" in the town. Upon receipt of a fire report, the bell was to be tolled quickly, after which one of five signal codes was to be rung out to indicate the general direction of the fire: Forest Road; Upper Ferntree Gully; Chalmers Corner (at the intersection of Glenfern and Lysterfield Roads): the Club Hotel; and the Shire Hall.
Although modified after three years to denote simply the four primary points of the compass, the Brigade's fire alarm system was to remain essentially unchanged to the end. The bell and the original minute book are retained by the present day as mementos of those early days.
By January 1927, enough money had been raised to permit the purchase of certain essential items of equipment. The Brigade acquired three axes, three files, a "Success" pattern spray pump, a lock and five keys, and a number of beaters "on the lines of the Belgrave beaters" for a total outlay of four pounds, nineteen shillings and five pence.
During bushfires, Brigade members and the Shire Council provided motor transport. The Brigade on one occasion felt moved to record its appreciation of one member's offer to "help as much as was in his power with the transport of men within a reasonable distance of the town". The expense outlaid by such firefighters in those difficult times troubled the Brigade, and an effort was made to help defray their costs.
Unfortunately, however, the "whole question of supplying motive power for those who cheerfully give their motor vehicles and can ill afford to do so much, over and above the loss of time, was held over until funds were available".
The creation of a Ladies' Auxiliary was foreshadowed in 1927 when Mrs Piper, in taking charge of the "commissariat arrangements at all fires", assumed the responsibility of providing food for the men engaged in fire- fighting. The then Mrs Knox was to render years of service to the Brigade from its inception, and particularly during the years, which followed her appointment to the Committee of Management in 1928.
Arrangements for mutual co-operation and support in fires were worked out with a number of neighbouring bush fire brigades, including those at Upper Ferntree Gully, Belgrave and Olinda. Having affiliated with the newly formed Victorian Bush Fire Brigades Association, the Brigade was to host a number of visits by the Association's President, Mr W. Swindon, who was himself a member of the Upper Ferntree Gully Brigade.
Unfortunately, only few references can be found to the fires, which the Brigade fought in and around the hills, and these are not mentioned in any detail. There was to be plenty of work during most seasons, but the Brigade's administration was geared to its level of operations, for in 1931 the minute book is simply endorsed: "No meetings called (very wet season) - A.W. Westley, Hon. Sec." It was apparent, too, the then Brigade's activities were not confined to the field of fire suppression, for at one meeting "an appeal to help a destitute family was read by the Secretary; total collection eight shillings".
In February 1938 the Brigade endorsed a recommendation that endeavours be made to have the bush fire brigades in Victoria placed on the same footing as their counterparts controlled by the Country Fire Brigades Board. That Board (which, along with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Board, had been established in 1891) provided fire protection in the provincial cities and in the larger towns outside the metropolitan area, with finance contributed by the government, the municipalities and the insurance underwriters. It was argued that the recommended proposal would give the bush fire brigades the same advantages of overall control and equipment resources that were then enjoyed by the country fire brigades.
Although in that same year the government established the Bush Fire Brigades Committee, under the auspices of the Forests Commission, to disperse fire fighting equipment to individual brigades and groups of brigades, the original proposal was not pursued, for in January of the following year Victoria was to experience a disaster, the magnitude of which was unparalleled in the State's troubled history of fire tragedies.
The situation which had been allowed to develop during the weeks leading up to the terrifying conflagration of “Black Friday”, and the widespread loss of life and property on the day itself, provoked such an outcry that the government appointed a Royal Commission (in the person of Judge Stretton) to investigate the causes of the disaster and make recommendations on the improvements needed in the State’s fire services.
In Ferntree Gully, the passing of time had changed the small rural community of the twenties to a progressive and thriving township, which could now boast among, other amenities the electrification of the railway service to Melbourne. By the beginning of the Second World War it had become apparent that the community needed a fully equipped organisation capable of providing year-round protection from fire.
In March 1941, the Shire of Ferntree Gully asked the Country Fire Brigades Board to "investigate and report on the possibilities of placing this area under the protection" of the Board. A petition circulated by lieutenant, S.E. Parker, and subscribed to by “some forty residents of Lower Ferntree Gully” had prompted the council’s initiative.
As a result of this move, the present Brigade, then known as the Ferntree Gully Country Fire Brigade, was found in July 1942.
These developments, naturally enough, affected the operations of the old Brigade, for much of the area it protected had now been incorporated into the Country Fire Brigade's district.
The Bush Fire Brigade continued to function along side the new Brigade for some fifteen months, but at its annual meeting, held in the Shire Hall on 29th November 1943, the decision was made to disband.
The Brigade's funds, which amounted to twelve pounds, one shilling and sixpence, all of which had been raised in to the town, were handed over to the Country Fire Brigade. The small stock comprising hand tools and knapsack tanks was apportioned between the new Brigade and the Upper Ferntree Gully Bush Fire Brigade.
Several of the Brigade's office-bearers addressed that final meeting, expressing thanks to the people and organisations who
had assisted the Brigade in its work during the preceding seventeen years, and on that quiet note the meeting closed and the organisation was dissolved.
Although they had completed their appointed task in their service to the community, the work of pioneers such as these was not to be forgotten.
Lacking the apparatus we possess today, the firefighters of yesteryear were compelled to rely almost solely upon their wits and personal courage in their grim seasonal battles with the bushfire scourge. Through necessity and in adversity they gained a real understanding of the behaviour of fire, and they developed and refined the skills and techniques that continue to form the basis of fire fighting tactics today.
But, nevertheless, an era had ended and a new one was to begin ...

THE NEW BRIGADE THE FOUNDATIONS
The establishment of a Country Fire Brigade in Ferntree Gully served a twofold purpose.
Primarily, of course, the expansion of the township, and with it the introduction of a reticulated water supply to the lower-lying areas, influenced the resident' petition to the Council and, in turn, the Shire's formal approach to the Country Fire Brigades Board.
A secondary but nevertheless important factor was also taken into consideration. It was wartime, and Australia's northern settlements were under aerial attack. Sydney had experienced enemy attack and, while the tide was turning in the allies' favour, the possibility of enemy action against the southern coastal cities could not yet be discounted. It was evident that there would be a need for effective fire fighting forces able to provide ready support in the event of conflagrations in Melbourne's metropolitan area.
Accordingly, then, Country Fire Brigades were created simultaneously at Ferntree Gully, Boronia and Diamond Creek to bolster the existing network of brigades in Melbourne's outer fringes.
A public meeting, convened by the Council for the purpose of forming a Country Fire Brigade, was held in the Ferntree Gully Shire Hall on Tuesday l4th July 1942. The Shire President, Councillor A. Tye, presided at the meeting and introduced Chief Officer Alex McPherson of the Country Fire Brigades Board, and Captain Harold Barnes of Chelsea Brigade who, at that time, was a member of the Board.
The Chief Officer explained that the Board proposed to place a hose tender in service at Ferntree Gully, while a hose reel and hydrant would be out stationed at Upper Ferntree Gully.
Interested persons at the meeting were invited by the Chief Officer to enrol as firefighters, and eleven men were registered as the foundation members of the Brigade.
An election of officers was then conducted, the result being that Messrs H.G. Dinsdale, S.E. Parker, W.J. Ross and W. Swindon were elected, respectively, to the positions of Captain, Lieutenant, Foreman and Secretary. Mr V.J. Baird, who enrolled in August, was to be elected Apparatus Officer in September.
The continuity of the town's fire service was assured with the election of Captain Dinsdale and Lieutenant Parker, for both these men had held corresponding offices in the Bush Fire Brigade.
The names of the foundation members of the Country Fire Brigade are listed in Appendix "B".
At the conclusion of the meeting, Chief Officer McPherson and Captain Barnes, who addressed the members of the new brigade at some length, explained the responsibilities and obligations of firefighters, and the role they would play in the service of their community and the organisation as a whole.
The Chief Officer then formally handed over to the Brigade its first fire appliance, a Chevrolet utility (Truck No 139), carrying 600 feet of canvas hose. He then selected the Brigade's youngest member, Firefighter Ray Parker, to drive him in the new truck to the railway station where he caught the train back to Melbourne.
The new Brigade settled down to begin the training programme would raise it to the level of competency and efficiency demanded of it.
In its first three years, much of the Brigade's effort was directed wards preparations for war incidents, and it worked in close liaison with local units of the A.R.P., V.D.C., St John Ambulance and the Red Cross. An emergency landing strip had been prepared on the Blackwood Park property, and it fell to the Brigade to lay the flare path (comprising a series of cut-down drums containing cotton waste doused in kerosene) in the event of a forced landing at night.
The original complement of eleven men was progressively supplemented by further enrolments, and the Brigade continued to recruit firefighters fill the vacancies created by those who departed to enlist in the armed services. Generally, efforts to sign up men of military age were discouraged the Board; it was said that most Brigades comprised old men and boys during the war, and they were acknowledged to be a most efficient combination.
Ferntree Gully's first fire station was erected in November 192, on a block of land on the east side of Selman Avenue, opposite the present state government offices. The Shire of Ferntree Gully had donated this land to the Country Fire Brigades Board.
The station, a timber frame with fibro cement walls and roof, was large enough to accommodate the Chrevrolet. It was built in
prefabricate form by Reg Matthews, a well-known Ferntree Gully identity, at a cost ninety pounds. At the same time, Mr Matthews built two more identical stations for the newly formed Brigades at Boronia and Winchelsea.
In May 1943, Lieutenant S. Parker, who had been elected upon the resignation of Harry Dinsdale, assumed the Captain’s position. Having been a foundation member of the Bush Fire Brigade in 1926, Stan had for many years served that Brigade as an officer, and he was to render another seven years of service as Captain of the new Brigade.
Wartime scarcities in material and equipment precluded the immediate supply of a pump for the fire appliance, but in February 1944 the Board Engineer, Mr Trengrove, fitted to the vehicle a front-mounted single stage centrifugal pump with a rated output capacity of 350 gallons per minute.
The new pump was obviously an asset, but there remained the problem of extinguishing fires occurring beyond the perimeter of the town's limited reticulated water supply, or out of reach of any static supplies. To minimise this problem, the Brigade devised a number of drills, including relay pumping which proved to be quite effective, for at one fire water was pumped nearly 2000 feet through two pumps set in relay.
Further resourcefulness was displayed by the Brigade members mounted a 400 gallon water tank on a stand from which it could be rapidly fitted to a tray truck. With the addition of a small motor pump, this unit was instrumental in enabling the Brigade to suppress many an outbreak, unaided.
Under an arrangement worked out with the Bush Fire Brigade, firefighters were summoned to fires by the bell acquired in 1926 by the old Brigade. The directional codes used for so many years were, logically enough, adopted by the new Brigade, which maintained this alarm system until April 1944 when the Board had a telephone and an automatic electric siren installed at e fire station.
In 1944 the Board sanctioned the establishment of a Junior Fire Brigade in Ferntree Gully, and on 5th December of that year, fifteen boys enrolled as members. They elected as their leaders Junior Captain R. Wrigley and Junior Lieutenants R. Ross and T. Griffin. Many of these boys later graduated to the Brigade itself, where they continued to serve for a number of years.
In October 1944 the government introduced a Bill to improve Victoria's fire services along the lines recommended by the Royal Commission investigating the 1939 disaster. Having gained certain impetus from the serious fires, which occurred early in 1944, the Bill passed through the legislative process and, despite some quite strenuous opposition from some quarters, emerged as the "Country Fire Authority Act".
The Act provided for the control of all Victorian fire brigades, with the exception of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Forest Commission's fire service to be vested in a new statutory authority, which, in turn, would be responsible to Parliament through the Chief Secretary, for the protection of an area of some 66,000 square miles.
POST WAR THE COUNTRY FIRE AUTHORITY AND URBAN STATUS
When the act was implemented in 1945, the Country Fire Brigades Board and the Bush Fire Brigades Committee were superseded. Country fire brigades and bush fire brigades, hitherto completely separate entities, were now united in the one organisation as "urban" and "rural" fire brigades, respectively.
The Ferntree Gully Brigade retained its responsibility for the protection of its gazetted fire district. Our common boundary with Boronia Brigade, defined by the old Board as early as August 1942, ran in an easterly direction along Blind Creek from Scoresby Road to the railway line, thence via Hutton Avenue, Forest Road and Mountain (now 01ivebank) Road to the perimeter of the National Park. Fearful, perhaps, that we might have had designs upon each other's territory, the then Secretary of the Board stated emphatically that "it is hardly necessary to explain that the Ferntree Gully Brigade will have the area to the south of the above boundary, and the Boronia Brigade the area north of it.
In 1946, the Country Fire Authority replaced the Chevrolet appliance, issued to the Brigade in 1942, with a Ford front-mounted pumper. This vehicle would remain in service with the Brigade for ten years.
The Brigade's purchase that same year of two "walkie-talkie" radios marked a technological advance and an emerging acceptance of the advantages to be offered by a rapid communications system. Mainly the men returning from active war service fostered this interest, for they readily appreciated the scope and application of the radio to fire service operations.
The radio equipment comprised heavy, cumbersome and ungainly war surplus transceivers, which necessitated constant tuning and were generally quite cantankerous in their operation. When working on bush tracks or, indeed, when reversing into fire stations, particular care had to be exercised to prevent damage to the whip aerial. And the perennial debate over the comparative virtues of base, and centre-mounted loading coils, has yet to be resolved.
However, the challenges created by such difficulties were met and over come by our communications pioneers who developed a sound and practical system, which has constantly proved its worth.
It was during these years, too, that the Brigade members developed an interest in competition work, and fielded teams at fire brigade demonstrations in Gippsland and on the Peninsula. Training tracks were laid out in The Glen, and in Dawson Street in Upper Gully.
Further moves were now afoot, this time quite literally, to secure a permanent home for the Brigade, and in 1950 the Country Fire Authority purchased the present site in The Avenue, to which the establishment was moved lock, stock and hose trough.
 
THE FIFTIES CONSOLIDATION AND EXPANSION
Captain Stan Parker resigned in August 1950, and was succeeded b Jim White who had enrolled as a firefighter in August 1942. Jim had been appointed Secretary within the first few months of the foundation of the Brigade and had served continuously in that capacity until his election as Captain.
The year 1950 also saw the formal beginnings of an organisation on which the Brigade was to rely heavily for support: a small group of ladies had banded together to work for the Brigade as its Ladies' Auxiliary. Although this was the Committee's official foundation, the ladies' self assumed task of assisting the Brigade was a continuation of the work, which they and their predecessors had carried out as far back as the origin of the Bush Fire Brigade.
For years after year the members of the Ladies’ Committee have worked cheerfully and diligently to raise much needed funds for the Brigade, to improve the welfare of its members, and to organise catering services during major operations. In good times and in bad, and often without the public recognition, which is rightfully theirs, these ladles have staunchly supported the Brigade throughout the years. The names of the Committee Presidents, and the Committee of today appear in Appendices "E" and "F".
The development of the district during the fifties placed an even increasing demand on the reticulated water supplies, and on hot days many of the mains in the town would often be empty for hours on end.
To meet this problem, and that of insufficient water supplies in the towns throughout the hills, the Brigade devised a technique that utilised the pumper, in conjunction with a series of tankers, to deliver an effective volume of water to major structure fires. Dubbed "Gunga-Din" (after Kipling's immortal water carrier), the highly co-ordinated process was perfected through constant practice and it was used with considerable success in actual operations.
In April 1955, after five years as leader, Jim White relinquished the Captaincy and handed over the reins to his successor, Lieutenant Ray Parker. Having joined the Brigade at its inaugural meeting, Ray had served continuously, except for his war service with the RAAF, and had held, successively, the offices of Apparatus Officer, Foreman and Lieutenant.
Work was now forging ahead with the new fire station on which the Authority had begun construction in 1954. After rectifying the problem with the eastern boundary line (which was somewhere under the adjoining house) and after certain misadventures with the concrete facade of the building (which wouldn't stay up), the new brick station was formally opened in September 1956. The old station was moved to the back yard and used as a store shed.
At this time the Brigade was elevated to "C" Class, permitting it to increase the establishment to twenty-five active firefighters and sixteen reserves.
A new Series 3 Austin front-mounted pumper was placed in service at Ferntree Gully in the latter part of 1956 to replace the Ford unit, which had served the Brigade well over the past decade.
Still confined in its operations to incidents served by either an unreliable reticulated water supply, or by static water supplies, the Brigade discussed the subject of a tanker with the Authority, and the decided to proceed on its own with the purchase of such a vehicle.
After negotiations with an oil company in 1957, the Brigade acquired a 1942 model, 650-gallon capacity, six-wheel drive GMC tanker. Formerly an oil tanker used originally by the U.S. Army Air Force in its wartime aerodromes in the Pacific, the "Gimmy" (as it was christened) was to make quite an impression on the Brigade's striking power. Placed in service in December 1957, the truck proved to be quite a boon in our hilly terrain, and it was frequently called upon for support in larger fires throughout the hills.
The design limitations of the vehicle restricted the crew to seven men: the driver, two seated passengers (all of whom travelled without the unnecessary encumbrance of doors) and two more men riding on each running board. Because the vehicle presented such a fearsome sight to other road users, warning devices were considered redundant, but an old police siren was acquired from a rather dubious source. The place of signal honour for any red-blooded firefighter travelling to a fire on the GMC was the offside running board from where he would operate the siren switch for the drover.
A base radio station was established in 1957 in Captain Parker's home in The Glen to co-ordinate the Brigade's fire-fighting operations. Working initially on the old Dandenong Ranges Group frequency of 4520 kcs, the station was operated jointly by Ray and his wife Shirley under the call sign VLJFQ. Shirley distinguished herself by the competent manner in which she operated the base during many an irregular watch for hours and, on occasion, for days at length.
Captain Parker resigned from office in June 1958, and was succeeded by Jim Dinsdale who had joined the Brigade in 1944 and had served as Lieutenant since 1955. Jim was to lead the Brigade through one of its most trying periods until when, in July 1962, he was promoted to the staff of the Authority as Regional Officer.
The Austin appliance, which had seen four years service with the Brigade, was replaced in April 1960 by a later model Austin pumper fitted with "first aid" water tank and hose reel, in addition to its normal complement of canvas hose. This vehicle was to remain in service until 1969.
THE SIXTIES - TESTED AND PROVEN
An unusually dry spring in 1961 preceded a summer of scorching weather and tinder-dry vegetation. Strong northerlies and soaring temperatures were experienced on the morning of Sunday 14th January 1962, when a fire broke out in the ravine area of The Basin. In combination with another outbreak, which had started to the north of the range, this fire burned during three days of appalling weather, before it could be checked. The western face of the Dandenongs, from Montrose to Ferntree Gully, was swept by the fire, which also extended to Belgrave, Kallista and Monbulk.
This extended operation, and the mopping-up work, which was to continue for days afterwards, severely taxed the Brigade's personnel and resources, and placed heavy demands on the members of the Ladies' Committee who had the responsibility of providing food for fire crews arriving from distant parts of Victoria.
Resident Officer Jim Walker was elected Captain following Jim Dinsdale's appointment as Regional Officer in July 1962. Jim Walker had joined the Brigade in 1958 and was appointed as the first Resident Officer in April 1959. His term of office was to be cut short when he, too, was appointed to the Authority staff in September. Taking up duty as a permanent firefighter, Jim was subsequently promoted as Station Officer.
With their appointments, these officers became the first of a number of members who, in the years to come, joined the permanent staff after serving all or part of their term as volunteer fire fighters at Ferntree Gully.
These men were to go on to occupy senior and responsible positions in the Service.
Following Captain Walker's departure, Ray Parker was re-elected the post he had vacated some four years earlier. He was to serve as Captain for a further nine years until his other commitments compelled him to stand down.
During the preceding few years, the development of the town had proceeded at a remarkable rate, especially in the western sector where large tracts of former pasture and market gardens were subdivided into housing estates. Keeping pace with this residential expansion, a number of light industries were established in the town, some of them being quite large manufacturing plants. These developments increased considerably the work and responsibilities of the Brigade, and more and more time had to be devoted to the intensive training of firefighters, particularly in connect on with the new industrial risks they would be likely to encounter.
It was these risks that prompted the Brigade in 1963 to purchase its first set of compressed air breathing apparatus, an innovative move that attracted considerable interest among local brigades.
Improvements were also being made to the fire station: the side driveway was surfaced and the first of a series of brick retaining walls was erected in 1964, and an extinguisher service bay was created by surfacing the area immediately behind the building. The old telegraph pole on which the hose was winched for drying was considered to be out of keeping with the Brigade's progressive thinking, and with the aid of some skilled axe work it mysteriously collapsed one Sunday morning. The Authority was promptly informed that the pole had "fallen down" and enquiries were made as to a replacement. The end result was that the existing siren tower at the driveway entrance was increased in height by the addition of a broader base to allow it to be used as a hose tower. The fact that the whole structure leaned slightly to the northwest was either denied emphatically, or claimed to have been intentional in that it counteracted the weight of the hose.
After a series of meetings and discussions, the Brigades in the recently created Shire of Knox combined in April 1965 to form a separate group organisation. Under the leadership of Captain Laurie Maguire of Boronia and his Deputy, Captain Ray Parker, the member brigades of the Knox Fire Brigades Group worked to develop the operational procedures, which would enable it to function as a cohesive force.
John Fitzpatrick, the first Communications Officer, established the new Group’s headquarters at Ferntree Gully. He utilised the small radio room, which until its conversion in 1963, had been used as a Brigade store. In 1967 radio coverage of the Group area was improved with the installation of a remote base station on the MMBW property at Wantirna, and its connection to the headquarters by landline.
In July 1967, the Brigade celebrated 25 years of service, and members were fitted out for the occasion in the new style dress uniforms. The old double-breasted blue serge jackets, which had survived practically unchanged since the inception of the old Fire Brigades Board in 1891, were retained as turnout coats.
By 1967, the Brigade had reconciled itself to the need for the replacement of the GMC tanker, which was reaching the end of its
economical and operational life. In June of that year the Brigade with an offer to subsidise the cost of an International C1600 series four-wheel drive tanker approached the Authority. Negotiations on the subject were to become rather protracted, and in the interim the Authority offered the loan of an old tanker for the approaching fire danger period.
Prior to Christmas 1967, the Brigade decided to complement its fire danger period fire prevention campaign with a tour of the town by Father Christmas who would distribute balloons, comics, fire prevention literature and general goodwill to the small fry. So popular was this venture that it is now a firmly established annual tradition, and has been adopted by other brigades in the district.
Another dry winter and spring in 1967 heralded the approach of a particularly hazardous fire danger period. A series of fires in the hills, many of them deliberately lit, kept all brigades in the area constant at work from as early as November.
Monday, 19th February 1968, brought extremes of wind velocity and temperature, and a fire breaking out that afternoon in The Basin raged through the National Park towards Tremont, Upper Ferntree Gully and Upwey. A concerted effort by all sections of the Service, aided by the close co-operation of other emergency services, succeeded, despite the appalling conditions, in checking the spread of the fire within a few hours of nightfall. The intensity of the fire, however, and the absence of any rain compelled the local brigades to maintain blacking-out and patrol work for another six days before the fire areas could be considered safe, and our personnel withdrawn. Quite a number of homes were destroyed in this fire, especially in those streets between the Devil's Elbow and the Monbulk Road.
A casualty of this fire was the old GMC tanker, which having been in the thick of the battle from the outset, finally broke down and had to limp home on its front wheel drive to the station where it was condemned to the back yard until it was eventually sold. Quite apart from the fact that it had been a good workhorse, the "Gimmy" attracted significant sentimental attachment from the Brigade members who had toiled with maintenance, repair and modifications that kept the truck operational, and who had worked day and night on those "water runs" that financed the petrol to keep the tanker on the road. To mark its demise after eleven years of sterling service, the old tanker was "paid off" in true naval fashion, "dressed overall with pennants flying and drums beating" and numerous toasts in rum.
In the Queen's Birthday Honours List of June 1968, Captain Ray Parker was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of his overall service, and in particular for his leadership as Group Officer, Knox, during the protracted operations of the preceding summer.
Negotiations on the matter of a replacement tanker continued, and the Authority approved an arrangement under which the Brigade would contribute by instalments towards the cost of a unit. And so an International C1650 series short wheelbase tanker, carrying a 600-gallon payload, was placed in service with the Brigade in December 1968. Twelve months later, the original Grazcos pump was replaced at Brigade expense with a larger capacity Volkswagen Godiva unit.
Within a few months of the tanker's arrival, the Austin appliance was replaced with an International front-mounted pumper.
May 1969 saw the conversion of the old Ferntree Gully manual telephone exchange to automatic operation, and with it the installation of the Brigade's fire reporting system with its associated bell alarms.
The Brigade's Fire Prevention Week activities were expanded in 1970 to include a visit to the primary schools with the fire appliances and, with poster competitions for the children; these visits became annual events for a number of years. Prior to Christmas 1967, the Brigade decided to complement its fire danger period fire prevention campaign with a tour of the town by Father Christmas who would distribute balloons, comics, fire prevention literature and general goodwill to the small fry. So popular was this venture that it is now a firmly established annual tradition, and has been adopted by other brigades in the district.
Another dry winter and spring in 1967 heralded the approach of a particularly hazardous fire danger period. A series of fires in the hills, many of them deliberately lit, kept all brigades in the area constant at work from as early as November.
Monday, 19th February 1968, brought extremes of wind velocity and temperature, and a fire breaking out that afternoon in The Basin raged through the National Park towards Tremont, Upper Ferntree Gully and Upwey. A concerted effort by all sections of the Service, aided by the close co-operation of other emergency services, succeeded, despite the appalling conditions, in checking the spread of the fire within a few hours of nightfall. The intensity of the fire, however, and the absence of any rain compelled the local brigades to maintain blacking-out and patrol work for another six days before the fire areas could be considered safe, and our personnel withdrawn. Quite a number of homes were destroyed in this fire, especially in those streets between the Devil's Elbow and the Monbulk Road.
A casualty of this fire was the old GMC tanker, which having been in the thick of the battle from the outset, finally broke down and had to limp home on its front wheel drive to the station where it was condemned to the back yard until it was eventually sold. Quite apart from the fact that it had been a good workhorse, the "Gimmy" attracted significant sentimental attachment from the Brigade members who had toiled with maintenance, repair and modifications that kept the truck operational, and who had worked day and night on those "water runs" that financed the petrol to keep the tanker on the road. To mark its demise after eleven years of sterling service, the old tanker was "paid off" in true naval fashion, "dressed overall with pennants flying and drums beating" and numerous toasts in rum.
In the Queen's Birthday Honours List of June 1968, Captain Ray Parker was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of his overall service, and in particular for his leadership as Group Officer, Knox, during the protracted operations of the preceding summer.
Negotiations on the matter of a replacement tanker continued, and the Authority approved an arrangement under which the Brigade would contribute by instalments towards the cost of a unit. And so an International C1650 series short wheelbase tanker, carrying a 600-gallon payload, was placed in service with the Brigade in December 1968. Twelve months later, the original Grazcos pump was replaced at Brigade expense with a larger capacity Volkswagen Godiva unit.
Within a few months of the tanker's arrival, the Austin appliance was replaced with an International front-mounted pumper.
May 1969 saw the conversion of the old Ferntree Gully manual telephone exchange to automatic operation, and with it the installation of the Brigade's fire reporting system with its associated bell alarms.
The Brigade's Fire Prevention Week activities were expanded in 1970 to include a visit to the primary schools with the fire appliances and, with poster competitions for the children; these visits became annual events for a number of years.
THE SEVENTIES CONTINUING PROGRESS AND DEVELOPMENT
In 1971 the fleet was expanded with acquisition of a Dodge panel van to fill a long-standing need for a mobile control point, and for the transport of personnel and specialised equipment. This vehicle was to be replaced with a later model of the same make in February 1977.
Following the precedent set in 1944, the Brigade revived the concept of a junior organisation and in January 1971 established the Junior Reserve. During the years in which it flourished, the Junior Reserve attracted some enthusiastic young members, many of who advanced to the Brigade as firefighters.
Having completed a second term of nine years as Captain, Ray Parker tendered his resignation from office and in July 1971 handed over the leadership to his successor, Lieutenant Frank Stephenson. Frank had enrolled with the Brigade in June 1959, was elected to office as Foreman in 1961, and was promoted as Lieutenant eleven months later.
In 1972 the Brigade's fire-fighting capabilities were upgraded with the replacement of the pumper with a later model International, equipped with a 650 gpm front mounted pump.
As early as 1971 the Brigade had acknowledged a problem with over crowding, and had agreed in principle to erect "a building on the property for he purpose of providing facilities for meetings and training, for garage accommodation, and for larger kitchen facilities". The concept was revived in March 1974, and discussions about the proposal with the Authority and a great deal of planning work ensued.
Work commenced on site in February 1975, with the demolition of the old original fire station, which had been used as a store shed. Construction proceeded at a steady rate, the skilled tasks being performed by qualified Brigade members, or by sub-contractors, while the members generally carried out the labouring work. A new hose tower was erected as part o the project.
The building was financed mainly by public donations, raised by Brigade members in door knock appeals, together with contributions from the Authority and the City of Knox. The Ladies' Committee and the Social Committee were engaged in many fundraising activities to finance the fittings and amenities provided for the Brigade members. The many individuals, firms and organisations that became involved in the work made numerous contributions in the form of services, materials, equipment and machinery to the project.
This quite ambitious project culminated in the official opening f the services building on 9th July 1977 by the Deputy Chairman of the Authority, Mr S. C. Diffey in the presence of a representative gathering, Ex-Captain Ray Parker, upon leaving the district, tendered his resignation in 1978. The Brigade arranged a testimonial dinner in September of that year to recognise their contribution, As the surviving foundation member, Ray had given the Brigade almost 36 years distinguished service, which the Country Fire Authority recognised by creating him Honorary Life Member.
December 1978 saw the replacement of the Dodge van with a Holden V8 station wagon which, equipped with hydrant and hose, was to perform the same multiple role of reconnaissance, operational control and personnel transport.
At this time the prospects of using electronic pagers to complement the fire alarm systems were being considered, the concept having been pioneered in this State by the Bayswater Brigade. The initial order was placed by the Brigade for eleven paging devices in September 1978, and these were soon to be supplemented by further units made available through the financial grant the Group received from the City of Knox.
THE EIGHTIES BETTER RESOURCES AND BIGGER INCIDENTS
The pager system has been a positive asset to the organisation and, its reliability having been proved, the Brigade alarms in Knox were modified late in 1980, the result being that station sirens no longer operate at night.
A series of deliberately lit fires occurred in and around the National Park in the early weeks of 1980, and in the difficult higher country along the Group's perimeter. These outbreaks invariably occurred on nights of high winds, and while some of the fires developed to potentially disastrous proportions they were stopped by a co-ordinated effort, prompt support and sheer hard work. In February 1980, the township of Upper Ferntree Gully, which had formed part of the Brigade's area of responsibility since 1942, was excised from the urban fire district and reverted in classification to rural area.
The acquisition of two additional breathing apparatus sets in 1980, together with a general expansion in the variety of specialised equipment used in fire-fighting operations, prompted the Brigade to seek a suitable vehicle in which it could be carried. In June 1980 the decision was made to purchase a Daihatsu twin cab diesel cab and chassis, with bodywork to be constructed to the Brigade's specifications.
This new equipment van was delivered in December 1980, and some weeks were devoted to fitting out its lockers for the stowage of gear. The vehicle carried breathing apparatus, basic fire-fighting equipment, salvage gear, generators and a lighting plant. It doubled as a personnel transport and was equipped to provide firefighters with refreshments during prolonged operations.
Radio communications were improved late in 1980 with the transfer of Knox Group traffic from the regional frequency to an exclusive frequency, thereby eliminating the jamming which occurred on the common channel when separate networks were engaged simultaneously in major operations. The Group Headquarters was further extended to incorporate the station's alarm lobby with the object of creating sufficient room to segregate the radio operation positions and to create multi-channel operations.
Early in 1982 Brigade members were despatched, as relief crews manning Knox Group vehicles, to a major outbreak to the north of Strath Creek. While the Brigade had generally confined its operations to its own fire district, or the immediate hills area, this operation had followed the deployment late in 1980 of Brigade members with support forces sent to bushfires menacing the border regions of East Gippsland. These incidents were to foreshadow a series of major fires during the decade that followed, beginning with our return to the Strath Creek district early the following year.
The eighties also saw the expansion of standardised training for fire fighters, both within and between individual brigades. In addition, courses were offered at the Fiskville Training Wing on specialised equipment and on special risks, as well as practical instruction on general methods of fire attack. As Deputy Group Officer, Frank Stephenson had been instrumental in organising night training sessions at Fiskville for new recruits in the Knox brigades.
Lack of rain during the winter and spring of 1982 produced severe drought conditions throughout a large area of southeastern Australia, and from early summer, bushfires were causing problems in various parts of Victoria.
On 16th February 1983, amid soaring temperatures and gale force winds, a series of calamitous fires broke out across Victoria and in other states. These fires exacted a heavy toll in human lives and caused widespread damage. Combined, they constituted the greatest civil disaster to be experienced by the country. They came to be known by the day on which they occurred: Ash Wednesday.
On Melbourne's eastern fringes major fires occurred in the South Belgrave -Beaconsfield area, in the Cockatoo district, and in a swathe from Noojee through Warburton to the forests above Reefton. The Brigade was committed to the South Belgrave fire practically from the outset, and was engaged in that area for almost two days. This operation was to be immediately followed by a longer period of duty as part of a Knox Group support force working in the Reefton and Big Pats Creek areas to the east of Warburton.
The Fire Service, and the community at large, mourned the loss of the members of two fire brigade crews who were numbered among those who perished in these particular fires. A former member of the Brigade was killed that same day while fighting a bushfire on the outskirts of Adelaide.
At this time, the Authority advanced the scheduled replacement of the tanker, which had been in service at Ferntree Gully for more than fourteen years. The replacement, an International ACCO 610A truck, with four-wheel drive and a 3000-litre payload, has proved to be a positive asset to the Brigade and the district.
The issue, to Brigades on the metropolitan fringe, of instantaneous hose coupling adaptors in August 1983 saw the beginnings of a long-term programme aimed at increasing effectiveness by standardising equipment in the different fire services.
The Brigade's equipment and resources were further improved during this period with the installation of a pumping pit in the station driveway, and the purchase of a smoke extractor for ventilating burning buildings.
The Holden station wagon was replaced by a Ford Falcon, thus closing an era of highway touring. In addition, an electric winch was installed on the hose tower to replace the "Armstrong" manual winch.
Early in 1985 the Brigade's tanker and crew were involved with local support forces in fire fighting operations in the state's northeastern districts, and in the border region of New South Wales. Relief crews were flown in by Hercules transports operating from Lilydale airfield.
In June 1986, Frank Stephenson resigned from office after a record term of 15 years as Captain. Having been the moving spirit in every aspect of Brigade activity during a particularly demanding decade and a half, Frank continued to serve in an executive capacity as Deputy Group Officer, Knox. Terry Potter who had served as Secretary, Foreman and Lieutenant succeeded Frank in office.
A testimonial evening arranged to honour the service given by Frank and Barbara Stephenson to the community through the Brigade was attended by a large and representative gathering of their friends and colleagues who had travelled considerable distances to be present for the occasion.
Two successful functions were organised by the Ferntree Gully Lions Club to raise funds for the urban and rural brigades in the Gully, and with the proceeds the Brigade was able to purchase portable radios. The Lions Club had often demonstrated its generosity in the past, notib1y with the presentation of a portable generator in 1981, and the Brigade has been most appreciative of the Club's efforts.
Significant urban fires in Ferntree Gully in 1987 included the spare parts division of an auto dealership, and a major furnishing store.
In late 1987 the Authority replaced the International pumper, with a Hino "Type 2" pumper, a twin-cab appliance equipped with a 3000 lpm rear mounted pump, auxiliary pump and a number of innovative features, not least of which was the provision of safer accommodation for the crew who would no longer be required to travel in the open.
A major building fire in January 1989 involved the premises of a local educational toy manufacturer's premises, which were severely damaged.
Having agreed that the Daihatsu equipment van could no longer carry the increasing quantity of specialised equipment required in fire fighting operations, the Brigade resolved to examine options for its replacement with a larger unit.
Terry Potter resigned as Captain in May 1989, and was succeeded by Bob O'Toole whose service with the Brigade included terms as Apparatus Officer, Foreman and Lieutenant.
A decision to proceed with the purchase and construction of a new equipment van resulted in the selection of a long-wheelbase Ford Trader twin-cab vehicle, the bodywork of, which was to be constructed in fibreglass. The new vehicle was delivered in May 1990, and was placed in service after fitting out by Brigade members.
After a record term of twenty-five years, Barry Heaton concluded his service as Resident Officer in June 1990. Barry had served the Brigade faithfully throughout those years, and he finished as the sole surviving Resident Officer in the district.
The early months of 1991 saw the Brigade active again in distant bushfire operations, this time involving outbreaks in the Seymour-Yea area and, later, in Warburton township.
The Authority improved crew safety on the tanker early in 1991 with the installation of rollover protection on the vehicle.
May 1991 saw the Brigade committed to the largest single building fire to have occurred in the district with an outbreak that almost totally involved the "Swagman" restaurant on Burwood Highway. This early morning fire was not detected and reported until it had vented. The fire-fighting operation, which entailed extensive support from within both Regions 13 and 26, combined with assistance from other essential services, was rated as a most effective, co-ordinated and concentrated attack.
Later that year, having witnessed the superiority of positive pressure ventilation systems in terms of access and crew safety in major structure fires, the Brigade decided to purchase two units. The two "blowers", each self-contained with its own power unit, were delivered in November and were placed in service after sufficient members were accredited as operators following specialised training.
Laraine Williams tendered her resignation from office after a term of fifteen years as President of the Ladies' Committee, in February 1992.
During her service, which dates from 1977, Laraine with the help of her colleagues, gave invaluable support and assistance to the Brigade during what had proved to be some very trying and demanding times. Marion Popa who had extensive service as Secretary of the Committee succeeded Laraine as President.
In March 1992 Bob O'Toole tendered his resignation as Captain, and was succeeded in April by Robert ("Toddy") Small. Toddy had transferred to Ferntree Gully after lengthy service at Bayswater. He had held office as Foreman and Lieutenant, in addition was a Deputy Group Officer with the Knox Fire Brigades Group.

 

APPENDIX "A"

FERNTREE GULLY BUSH FIRE BRIGADE

25th February 1926

President

Mr J. Carroll

Vice-Presidents

Cr G.H. Knox, Cr Tom. Heany

Senior Constable Fo Williamson

Committee of management

Messrs M. Monk, S. Parker, A. Pickett, J. Greaves and J. Mason Sr

Hon. Secretary

Mr G. Lovell

Hon. Treasurer

Mr J. Ford

Captain

Mr J. Murphy

Transport Leader

Mr F. Heggenbotham

 

A. Adams

Rev.

T. Little

P. Burns

J. Mason

W. Clark

J. Morris

J. Corbett

Const.

L. Murphy

W. Davidson

L. Rademacker

J. De Coite

L. Rigby

H. Dinsdale

J. Scott

G. Evans

N. Simmons

F. Fivan

C. Stewart

R. Friberg

D. Straton

W. Garrett

H. Straton

J. Gill

B. Stringer

H. Gray

J. Tootle

G. Greaves

V. Webb

A. Hamilton

Rev.

A. Westley

S. Hanger

J. White

J. Hill

Wilcox

J. Horan

C. Winter

Jager

 

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX "B"

FERNTREE GULLY URBAN FIRE BRIGADE

July 1942

Captain

H. G. Dinsdale

Lieutenant

S. E. Parker

Foreman

W. J. Ross

Secretary

W. Swindon

Firefighter

H.R. Breen

Fireighter

R. Corbett

Firefighter

W. Dingley

Firefighter

R.S. Parker

Firefighter

L.Potter

Firefighter

V.R.Potter

Firefighter

J.D. Wrigley

 

 

APPENDIX "B"

FERNTREE GULLY URBAN FIRE BRIGADE

Captains

H. Dinsdale

July 1942

May 1943

S. Parker

May 1943

August 1950

J. White

August 1950

April 1955

R. Parker

April 1955

June 1958

J. Dinsdale *

July 1958

July 1962

J. Walker *

July 1962

September 1962

R. Parker

September 1962

June 1971

F. Stephenson

July 1971

June 1986

T. Potter

July 1986

May 1989

R. O’Toole

June 1989

March 1992

R. Small

April 1992

1997

R. W. Shiner *

1997

1999

W. M. Watson

1999

2001

S. Broadfoot

2001

2004

J.Thompson

2004

2008

R.Small

2008

  May 2010

R Stork

May 2010

Current
*Denotes  Promoted to permanent CFA Staff  

 

 

APPENDIX "B"

Ladies’ Committee

Presidents

G. Bennett

1954

1955

M. McDonald

1955

1956

E. Johnson

1956

1958

D. Mace

1958

1963

A. Phillips

1963

1965

B. Hill

1965

1966

A. Phillips

1966

1969

E. Lee Archer

1969

1970

J. Coall

1970

1975

C. Dear

1975

1977

L. Williams

1977

1992

M.Popa

1992

 

 

 

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