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Kangaroo Ground Fire Brigade 125th Anniversary
Kangaroo Ground Fire Brigade has several events planned this year to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
By Glenn Law, Captain Kangaroo Ground
- Sunday 26 March: Official celebration at Kangaroo Ground Fire Station
- Friday 4 August: Anniversary Ball at Stones of the Yarra Valley
- Sunday 29 October: Kangaroo Ground Community Day at Kangaroo Ground Oval
On 6 February 1892, a meeting was held at the Eltham Council Chambers (then located in Kangaroo Ground) to form a bushfire brigade.
After some discussion it was agreed those wishing to become members would give their word of honour that in the event of a bushfire breaking out anywhere within a six-mile (9.6 kilometre) radius from the Kangaroo Ground post office, they would at once go to it and do their “level best” to put it out.
That was the start of a long and close relationship between Kangaroo Ground Fire Brigade and the community it pledged to protect.
One hundred and twenty-five years later, this is still the best description of the brigade’s role, though now it responds to more than just bushfires and travels further than 9.6 km!
In 1914 it was community funds that purchased the brigade’s first vehicle (a horse drawn fire cart constructed at a cost of 7 Pounds and 10 Shillings).
One of the most important steps in the life of a brigade is to obtain a fire truck. But before CFA would give a vehicle to a brigade, it first had to have a fire station. At a meeting on 13 November 1958, it was decided to approach the landowners to give a one pound donation towards building a fire station.
The new station was built in stone, with the stone bought in large blocks from Mt Gambier and cut on site by brigade members using cross-cut saws. The original building was only big enough to hold the Willys.
The brigade raised 1,000 pounds towards the cost of a vehicle and on 22 December 1965 obtained a Willys fire unit.
On 29 March 1965 an auxiliary was formed as support for the Kangaroo Ground Fire Brigade. By 1970 the auxiliary started raising funds to buy a tanker, and an International C1310 was purchased. The new tanker could just fit into the old station, but it was obvious that a new station was needed.
Around 1975 saw the start of plans for the new station and the Auxiliary stepped up its fund raising efforts. The station, which officially opened in May 1980, was jointly funded by CFA and the community.
After moving into the new station, the brigade bought a second fire truck. This was a six-ton Bedford which had been a council water truck with a flat, 1,000-gallon metal tank. It also had a 200 gallon tank and a monitor and the brigade converted the truck into a firefighting appliance.
In 1987, with funds raised by the Auxiliary, the brigade replaced the Bedford with a 1978 International C1610. The brigade purchased the cab chassis and a local company fitted it out. This tanker had a 3000-litre capacity.
After another massive fundraising effort, the brigade, led by Malcolm Delbridge and Leo Versteegen, extended the station to include a third bay. The extension was officially opened on 16 June 1992. When the third bay was available the brigade raised funds to buy a Nissan Navara in 1991 which was used as a field command vehicle.
In 1993 the CFA-provided International C1310 was replaced with an Isuzu 2.4D tanker which is still in operation with the brigade today. The tanker was used during Black Saturday.
In 1995 the brigade replaced the Nissan Navara, again with community-provided funds.
On 19 March 2000 the old International C1610 was raffled to raise funds towards the purchase of the Mitsubishi Canter. For a period, the brigade only had one tanker and also had to sell its FCV while it raised the remaining funds to purchase the new tanker.
In 2000, after a massive fundraising effort, the brigade eventually bought a Mitsubishi Canter cab/chassis and a South Australian company in Murray Bridge fitted out the vehicle with a 1,000-litre tank, pump and lockers. This tanker also saw service on Black Saturday.
In 2013 the station was extended under the State Government’s Rural Fire Station Program and included a larger meeting room, a fully operational kitchen, toilets for people with disabilities, shower, workshop, cleaning store and a new turnout area.
Ongoing weight issues with Tanker 2 meant the brigade had to limit the number of crew on the vehicle and remove several items of equipment. Because of this issue and the experiences of Black Saturday, the brigade decided to work towards purchasing a larger replacement tanker for Tanker 2.
Fundraising efforts were ramped up and in parallel a campaign was launched to obtain financial assistance via a VESEP government grant. The new medium tanker was delivered on 31 May 2016.