Bonegilla brigade celebrates its centenary

Member News image Bonegilla Captain Brian Church in the restored truck


Bonegilla Fire Brigade volunteers were pleasantly surprised to see their first fire truck return to the station as part of their centenary celebration yesterday.


CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan and CFA Board Member Ross Coyle joined around 140 CFA members and their families to mark the momentous occasion.   

Bonegilla Captain Brian Church, who has been part of the brigade for nearly half its existence, said he was pleased to be able to purchase the old 1958 Austin fire truck. 

“The Austin has a steel tank which holds around 1,600 litres on the back of the truck and a rope start motor which was hand wound on a starter pulley each time the motor was pulled to start it,” Brian said. 

“Sometimes the rope would break in the haste to start it for a fire. 

“I’ve had the truck restored to its original condition and it will be a great historical asset to hold onto.” 

Bonegilla Fire Brigade was formed on 7 January 1924. A water cart and hand pump was purchased which was all they had until CFA was established in 1947.  

From the early days of fighting fires with five-gallon knapsacks and beaters, Brian said a lot has changed over the years. 

“The brigade started using Furphy water tanks and a Terrier fire pump. Firefighters would use their private vehicles to cart the fire equipment around to fires.” 

The brigade members built their first fire shed back in 1959 on land acquired from the Education Department on the corner of the Murray Valley Highway and Mahers Road, where its replacement station stands today.  

“The new 2.5 bay station was built in 2009, which has been incredible facility for our members and the local community with many fundraising activities and community gatherings taking place over the years,” Brian said.  

There have been only nine brigade captains since 1959 with Brian the longest serving at 26 years.  

“I’ve had my own business for the past 32 years and the two guys working with me were also CFA volunteers so if there was a fire, we all dropped everything and went to the fire together,” Brian said. 

“I always put CFA first. I like responding to incidents and we have a really great brigade. It’s a great team.” 

Brian said the trucks, equipment and training have improved significantly throughout his 46 years with CFA. 

“Back in the day anyone could jump on the back of a truck! But there’s mandatory training requirements now which is vital for everyone to do.” 

Bonegilla currently has 65 members, 29 of those are operational members who have responded to many major fires over the years including the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, the February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and more recently they were deployed to NSW and then Victoria for the 2019/20 fires. 

As part of the 100th anniversary celebration, several brigade members were presented awards including Captain Brian Church who received his 45-year service award, alongside Christopher Frauenfelder who also received the same recognition. 

There were many other service awards presented ranging from five to 45 years service. Five members received National Medals and one member was presented their National Emergency Medal (NEM) to recognise his efforts in the 2019-20 fires. 

Two prestigious Life Membership Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) awards were presented to Phillip Browne and Donald Bowers for their outstanding work at the brigade for many years.  

Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said it was an honour to attend the 100th anniversary event and to witness so many devoted members receiving their awards. 

“I congratulate the members who received medals and clasps yesterday and also all the brigade members for their ongoing dedication and commitment in protecting their local community,” CO Heffernan said. 

“The brigade should feel proud of what it has achieved and how much its grown over the years. 

“Bonegilla has a rich history which will continue to be honoured and remembered for future generations to come. 

“The restored Bonegilla fire truck is a special addition for the local community to admire for many years.” 


  • Member News imageMembers who received awards with CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan
  • Member News image Three generations of the Church family
Submitted by CFA Media