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Wattle Glen’s major extension
In the summer of 1943-44 a railway work-gang was boiling the billy at Wattle Glen.
The small camp fire got away and a fierce bushfire burned from Wattle Glen to Research, destroying homes, sheds, fencing and farmland … but out of the flames the Wattle Glen Volunteer Fire Brigade was born in March, 1944.
Seventy years on, Wattle Glen members had broad smiles in October 2014 when it looked like their ambitious project to rebuild the station was going to become a reality. The complexity of the site required detailed options, analysis and consideration to come up with a workable and viable solution – an option was found that pretty much ticked all the boxes.
In mid-2016, the members at Wattle Glen, and Captain Stephen Gaunt in particular, realised just how much work was involved to ensure the upgrade delivered the best possible bang for the buck.
The members also pledged to add an extra $100,000 to the overall project, which boiled down to a lot of sausage sizzles, Christmas tree sales in conjunction with our CFA neighbours at Diamond Creek, and tireless fundraising efforts in the local area by a hard-working Brigade Auxiliary.
“Wattle Glen has always been closely associated with our local community and we’ve found our efforts don’t go unrewarded,” Stephen said.
“We have a growing primary school, a large aged care facility and a lot of other vital community infra-structure within our boundary, and it’s up to us to strive to protect and support all that and every resident to the best of our ability.
“The upgraded station will allow us to do that more efficiently and effectively.”
The current station was built in the late 1980s and, although it’s a vast improvement over the original tin shed housing an ancient ute with a water tank on the back, and the lean-to out the back to store canvas knapsack sprays and beaters, it was certainly showing its age and limitations as Wattle Glen and the surrounding area grew from country community to urban-fringe status.
On 1 March 2017, Emergency Services Minister James Merlino joined other dignitaries and brigade members for the ground-breaking ceremony to begin construction.
On that day, the hardest job faced by the captain and the station upgrade sub-committee was preparing a small section of Wattle Glen clay and shale to avoid any strains and sprains as Minister Merlino wielded the chrome-plated shovel.
“The ground-breaking made it onto the front page of the local newspaper and a local community group newsletter, indicating the value Wattle Glen residents place on their CFA,” Stephen said.
The start of building work followed dozens of meetings with the CFA Land and Building team, CFA Operational Support, numerous meetings and hundreds of phone calls with Nillumbik Council, Melbourne Water, VicRoads, arborists and architects.
The meetings, consultations and phone traffic continued through the construction phase as some last-minute hitches arose and some minor plan changes had to be accommodated. But at least the end was in sight.
During the whole process Wattle Glen Brigade has remained operational.
“The jobs don’t stop coming in just because the station is being rebuilt,” Stephen said.
“Through our close links with our community we negotiated to move to a temporary location at the Scout Hall nearby and, while not ideal as a fire station, it served its purpose and allowed us to maintain service to the community.”
Coinciding with the station rebuild, the brigade took delivery of a new medium tanker through the VESEP program, to which members had pledged another $50,000 of brigade-raised money to replace Tanker 2, an ageing brigade-owned truck.
It also meant the brigade management team had to divert some attention from the building project towards getting members up to speed and checked off for driving and operating the new truck.
In mid to late August, the new tanker will be taking pride of place in the revamped station, alongside the trusty old tanker 1 and FCV.
Today, the concrete slab of the two-bay engine room and a single brick wall are almost the only reminders of what was on the site.
The slab has been extended to three bays, there’s a member turn-out room instead of members having to gear up next to moving trucks, a breathing apparatus maintenance room (instead of the kitchen sink) and a meeting room so training courses can be run more effectively.
“I have a few more grey hairs from the process, but in the end it’s all about the community and Wattle Glen brigade will be in a position to provide a better-than- ever service to its local community and support to neighbouring brigades,” said Stephen.