News & Media

Happy 70th Wattle Glen

  • Flipping the switch on the new generator.
  • Past and Present Captains of Wattle Glen.
  • Captain Gaunt present Alex with a certificate and trauma teddy.

By: Blair Dellemijn

Category: Events / Fundraising / Offers

  8.05 PM 24 March, 2014

Location: District 14 News, District 24 News

Views: 3736

On Sunday (16th March), Wattle Glen CFA Members were joined by Danielle Green, MP for Yan Yean, Greg Esnouf, CFA Deputy Chief Officer and Regional Director North West Metro Region, members representing Bendigo Bank, Diamond Creek Rotary and Diamond Valley Miniature Railway, and past members of the Brigade to help celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Wattle Glen Fire Brigade.

Wattle Glen Fire Brigade was formed on the 16th of March 1944, 70 years to the day.  During the summer of 1943/'44, a serious fire started just to the north of the Wattle Glen Railway Station.  This fire was started by railway workers lighting a small fire to boil a billy for a cuppa. This fire proceeded to burn its way through Wattle Glen under the influence of a north west wind and on to Research. 

Many houses were destroyed as a result of this fire, and it was decided by the locals that Wattle Glen needed to form a Brigade.  Here we stand 70 years to the day and remember what it must have been like for the local community of Wattle Glen, facing the ravages of fire with nothing but good luck to protect them.  No doubt the community of Wattle Glen was still on edge following from the devastating fires of 1939 – Black Friday. 

Wattle Glen fire brigade initially had nothing but a small water tank mounted on a trailer, and no doubt a few of the obligatory beaters. The trailer would have been hooked up to someone’s car or ute and off they would have gone to see what they could do. 

Wattle Glen was initially a branch brigade of Diamond Creek Fire Brigade, and so was run under the management structure of Diamond Creek, however the brigade also functioned in its own right.  In 1956, a serious fire in the St Helena area took hold and it resulted in many private homes being destroyed, as well as  the St Helena Church. Once again with the review of the aftermath of the fire it was decided that Wattle Glen needed a fire truck.

The brigade scraped together the funds via the usual fundraising methods of the time (Bingo nights, dance in the fire station etc) to be able to purchase from Diamond Creek Brigade their old 1925 Studebaker car that had been converted into a fire truck.  It is with interest that we note that this appliance was 30 years old when placed in service at Wattle Glen, currently the CFA has a policy of replacing vehicles between 20 to 30 years of age.

Ex Captain Stan Henderson remembers the old Stude well;

“Our fire truck, if you could call it that, was a 1925 model Studebaker that had started life as a car but at some stage had been cut down to a type of buckboard.  It had a front seat and behind that was a wooden tray which carried the 100 gallon tank, a small pump and about 20 meters of hose.  It also had a radio which had been used in World War 2 and usually had a range of about 50 meters just further than you could yell, but on a good day it could get to Diamond Creek.  The warning device was a brass bell  which hung off the driver’s side of the windscreen and was operated by the driver  whenever he was brave enough to take his right hand off the steering wheel. For the technically minded, the engine had eight cylinders, which was rather powerful, and the brakes were fitted to the rear wheels only, and were cable operated.  Given that, when the tank was full of water, the load was almost a ton, stopping the Old Stude was always a problem.”

The brigade battled with this homemade concoction of a vehicle for 6 years, and following some pretty hairy moments in the ’62 fires, it was decided that this vehicle was a death trap on wheels and so persuaded the CFA to support the process to obtain something better.

In 1965, Wattle Glen Brigade formed in its own right and we now function as Brigade within
Nillumbik Group of Brigades, District 14, North West Metro Region. 

I, as Captain of the brigade in it’s current form, look back at what the early members of Wattle
Glen did and achieved with what they had then, I have the utmost respect for them and their ability to make do with what they had.

In 2014, Wattle Glen Fire Brigade has over 55 active members on our books, most being
operational members, however we have a number of Juniors and also a very capable group of Auxiliary members. With the progress of technology since 1944, when the community of Wattle Glen formed a brigade with a tank on a trailer, we have moved on to;

  • A Fire Station that houses our equipment, and provides a place for us to meet and respond to fire and emergency events from.
  • 2 Fire Trucks, 1 of them 4WD.
  • A Forward Control Vehicle.
  • All manner of pieces of equipment spanning from knapsacks and rake hoes, to pumps, hoses, breathing apparatus and the list goes on and on.
  • And probably the most important item for our crews, thanks to the CFA, both of our trucks are now fitted with a dedicated crew protection system comprising water deluge systems and heat
    reflective curtains.

Danielle Green assisted to unveil a membership list with the names of previous and current
members of the Brigade.  We have trawled through boxes and boxes of archives to create this list and used our best endeavours; however we know that there is some gaps, so the list is in draft form until our 75Th at which time an honour board will be made, and it is expected that it will be added to and updated every five years thereafter.

Members of Bendigo Bank, Diamond Creek Rotary and Diamond Valley Miniature Railway assisted with commissioning of a new generator to provide backup power to the fire station complex should there be a major power outage in the area.

A Roast Beef Spit Roast Roll was enjoyed by all for Lunch, and a celebratory cake and other tasty
treats was on offer for afternoon tea.  A great day was had by all, with old acquaintances renewed and many a story recounted. 

And many thanks go to Alex De Bolfo, a resident from Wattle Glen who graciously donated $70 to the brigade after making loom bracelets and selling them for .50c each to raise money for much needed equipment for the brigade. Captain Gaunt paid her a visit at home last week to present her with a Certificate of Appreciation and a CFA Teddy.

This story formed part of a speech read by Stephen Gaunt, Wattle Glen's present day Captain.

Pictures by Blair Dellemijn - CFA Photographer and Wattle Glen Fire Brigade.

Last Updated: 24 March 2014