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148 years in one fire station
Inglewood Fire Brigade had a lot to celebrate at their 150th anniversary dinner on Saturday 17 May.
In 1861, Inglewood was a town thriving on the success of a gold rush the town had 14 hotels 38 breweries two bowling alleys, two billiard saloons, two dentists, four drapers six doctors, five boot makers, six gold merchants, six solicitors, five blacksmiths, six chemists, four schools, five churches and numerous other businesses.
Story by Second Lieutenant Andrew Smith
1861 was also the first year that it was suggested the town should form a fire brigade. It was not until November 1862, however, that a meeting was held at the Royal Hotel and it was decided that a book be placed there for people interested in becoming members of the brigade to put their names in.
By 2 December 1862, the book had 36 names – about the same number of members as we have today.
Unfortunately, the very next day, almost the entire town was burnt to the ground in a large fire that started late in the afternoon in a draper’s store. It quickly spread to the adjoining buildings and the wind fanned the flames 66 feet across Brooke St and set fire to Martigonis billiard hall. It was stopped only by tearing down buildings in the path of the fire and by the formation of a bucket brigade hauling water from what we now know as Unity Dam.
The fire was said to be the largest and most devastating fire the colony of Victoria had ever experienced up to that time and destroyed some 65 properties and businesses.
Eventually the Inglewood fire brigade was formed on 18 May 1864 with the following rules:
1. A member not present at the monthly meeting would be fined six pence; and
2. A member at a fire in a state of intoxication or becoming intoxicated whilst attending a fire was suspended and a board of enquiry held.
The firefighting equipment consisted of ladders and long poles with hooks to pull down adjoining buildings. Buckets of water were used upon the arrival of water carts. The operators received two pounds for being the first to arrive.
The Phoenix fire engine weighing three tons was purchased in 1865 and had to be man-handled due to a lack of horses.
The foundation stone for the fire station was laid on 21 June 1866 and it’s still our fire station today, 148 years later! Our research has shown that our station is possibly the oldest CFA fire station still being used for its original purpose.
A smaller engine had been procured at this stage: a one ton Merriweather engine that operated until 1927. A Chevrolet truck with a Gardiner pump was made available at half price. Within one day the money was raised and engine No 24 was obtained. This truck was replaced with a Dodge in 1955.
By 1864, a water main from the reservoir had been laid in Brooke Street and a manual pump was ordered from England. It was claimed that the pump would be capable of spouting water over any house in Brooke Street but when it arrived it didn’t work properly.
A large bell arrived and was installed at Camp Reserve 60-70 feet up a tree and was often the target of town larrikins. It also drew complaints to council for being rung on training nights.
Other difficulties experienced include the shire periodically turning the town water off. Because of this, in 1896 the brigade watched a house burn down.
Despite these and, I am sure, many other trials and tribulations, our brigade has survived 150 years and many fires:
1872 Shamrock Hotel, Empire State, The adjoining Hardware store and Bakery.
1892 and 1934 Bridgewater flour mill
1901 Columbian mine
1930 Grocery store
1936 Crystal Café
1965 Tavnor’s barber shop and a large fire at Rheola which claimed a life
As we celebrate 150 years of the Inglewood Fire Brigade, we take a moment to pay tribute to those who had the determination and dedication to form the brigade and to all the volunteer members who have served the community for all those years.
Inglewood CFA brigade recent times
In the past three years, the Inglewood brigade has attended more than 150 incidents.
I am privileged to have been a member of the Inglewood brigade for nine years and have found it to be a learning experience.
One of the first fires I attended was as part of a strike team to the Whipstick Forest. Being the new bloke, I got to ride on the back of the truck. It was the classic hurry-up-and-wait as we sat in a paddock for four hours before blacking out. I learned about hot ash and got to use a hose and the pump a couple of times.
As we headed home about midnight, I thought, “That was pretty boring”. Then, as we passed through Marong, the fire siren was sounding. The strike team leader called up and offered assistance to the local brigade and within 10 minutes the fire was out. I am sure to this day the farmer still wonders how we managed to turn out seven tankers so quickly at 1am!
From that experience I learned, when going on a strike team, get in the cabin first, and perhaps this firefighting caper wasn’t so boring after all.
This proved to be a valuable information for my next strike team trip. On turning out, I jumped in the cabin. On arrival at the fireground, we were hit by what could only be described as a smoke/ sandstorm. The blokes on the back could not see the beacons on the truck behind and we could not see the truck in front.
I learned that night that, if you give up your seat in the front so someone on the back can have a rest late at night, be prepared to sleep on the back of the truck. As we huddled around a burning log as the sun rose, I also learned that it doesn’t always pay to put the fire completely out.
In the past few years, I have experienced the tragedy that was Black Saturday; attended shed fires, house fires, grass and bush fires, car fires and false alarms; and experienced the tragic death of a young brigade member.
I have been in upturned and crashed cars more than once reassuring trapped drivers that we would get them out and, when their mum found out they had crashed her car, she probably wouldn’t kill them.
I have stood toe to toe with land owners who decided to burn off during the fire season, and been told by the local police to get my crew off a property because the owner had gone inside to get a gun.
I have learned many things in my time in the brigade
1: Beware of hot ash;
2: He who hesitates is on the back of the truck;
3: He who is kind to his fellow crew members sleeps on the back of the truck;
4: If you crash Mum’s car and survive, she won’t kill you;
5: Flood water is cold and it stinks;
6: Next Black Saturday, go to the beach.
Above all, being a volunteer firefighter would not be possible without the support of our partners and families and I thank them all.
Would I do it all again? With the crew from the Inglewood Fire Brigade, my bloody oath I would!
I am sure the lessons learned over the past 150 years will stand us in good stead for the next 150.
Also read Lounge room life member about the weekend celebrations in Inglewood.