News & Media

Twenty-one years of alpine firefighting

  • Jamie Jansen, Greg (Speedie) Stroud and Gary Thornley
  • Open Day 2016

By: Duncan Russell

Category: Events / Fundraising / Offers

  4.37 PM 22 July, 2016

Location: District 24 News

Views: 19678

Falls Creek Fire Brigade is proud to announce 21 years of operations this year. 

By Joy Nowakowski, Falls Creek Fire Brigade

The brigade protects Falls Creek village from fires throughout the year and supports other brigades to fight bushfires nearby and further away.

Currently, the brigade has 23 year-round volunteers.

To celebrate its twenty-first birthday, the brigade organised several events in June. 

At a formal community event held during the Falls Creek ski season opening weekend, Stuart Smythe, CEO Falls Creek Resort Management, acknowledged the brigade’s achievements.

“All great communities have at their core a group of volunteers whose service to that community usually goes unheralded,” said Mr Smythe. “Community-based volunteer emergency services are essential, and Falls Creek CFA and its members are a key part of that front line and have a tremendous track record of bravery and service.”

District 24 Operation Manager Paul King and long-serving Falls Creek firefighter Rock De Marchi then took part in the official ribbon-cutting to open the 2016 ski season.

The second event was a station open day, where past and current members, Falls Creek visitors and community members visited the station and shared a barbecue.

The alpine pumper and brigade snowmobiles were on display. Falls Creek’s alpine pumper was the first of its kind in Australia, and pumpers used in other ski resorts in Australia are based on this vehicle. It has a pumping capacity of 4,000 litres a minute and has a Perkins turbo diesel engine. Its tracks enable it to access all areas of the village and ski fields.

Brigade members turn out every week of the year to train. Having to leave a warm home mid-winter in temperatures often below 0*C, shows how committed they are to the brigade and the village.

Falls Creek village has been threatened by two major fires, the worst being in 2003 when CFA crews saved the village and the adjoining ski field infrastructure right at the boundaries. Snow-making equipment was used to create a water/fog barrier that helped stop the fire from taking the village. The team that saved the village were considered heroes.

Support for fighting fires at Falls Creek dates back to 1956 when the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) was building hydroelectric facilities in the area. But this support came from Mount Beauty, 30km away down the mountain. Falls Creek locals were concerned by this, so used six available hydrants and a canvas hose to fight any fires on the mountain. 

Orry Frueauf, a lodge owner at Falls Creek at that time, said alpine fire fighting was difficult.

“Equipment would rot easily or be used by builders to make concrete during summer, covering the hoses in cement and in turn rendering them useless for the winter season,” Mr Frueauf said.

In 1964 the SECV gave the village a trailer which could be used with both wheels and skis for summer and winter operations. But this trailer only lasted two years. In the early 1970s, the village was given a 2,000-gallon Ford Blitz 4x4 truck, and additional equipment was quickly acquired by the village including a new locally-constructed trailer with a pumper unit.

In the 1990s, a change in land status meant the Falls Creek area became the responsibility of CFA. This status was formalised in 1995 by a public meeting that formed Falls Creek Fire Brigade.

Congratulations to Falls Creek brigade members who volunteer their time. They provide an essential service for local residents and the many thousands of people who visit this beautiful mountain.

In teh group photo, from left to right: Operations Officer Mark Owens, Gary Thornley, Kristy McGrail, Jamie Jansen, Joy Nowakowski, Jayne Behrendorff, Rock De Marchi and Operations Manager Paul King

Last Updated: 22 July 2016