Brigades of CFA: Beaconsfield Upper

Member News image In 1929 the brigade got its first vehicle - a 1920s T model Ford


Beaconsfield Upper Fire Brigade has a unique and rich history and has been serving its local community for the past 97 years.


Beaconsfield Upper is 45 kilometres south east of Melbourne in the foothills of the Dandenongs. The terrain is hilly with rocky outcrops, creeks and wetlands; 98 per cent of residents live in a designated extreme bushfire zone.

“Our predominate risk is grass and scrub/bushfire,” Beaconsfield Upper Fire Brigade Captain Ian Pinney said.

“We have one of the highest risks of targeted at-risk properties in the state and we also have a 100-bed high-dependency nursing home in our catchment area.”

The brigade has been operating since 1925, when a group of residents formed the then Beaconsfield Upper Bush Fire Brigade.

The first captain was a local resident called Ulick A'Beckett.

At this time there was no specialised firefighting equipment. Brigade members relied on horses to get to the fire and used gum boughs to beat out the flames.

“In 1929 the brigade acquired its first appliance - a 1920s T model Ford,” Ian said.

“It was donated by a local resident, Major Campbell, and came complete with two 44-gallon drums to carry water and a stirrup pump.”

In 1949 the brigade became one of the first to use radio communication to coordinate firefighting activities.

“The brigade continued to make history with the introduction of women to firefighting roles in the early 1980s under the guidance of then captain Eric Bumpstead,” Ian said. “The women were affectionately known as Eric's Angels, (a reference to the popular show Charlie’s Angels.”

While there are notable milestones over the brigade's and community's history there were also immense challenges.

The town was completely destroyed in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires that swept across Victoria. The Upper Beaconsfield blaze took the lives of 21 people including 12 firefighters.

There is a memorial to the fallen firefighters in Critchley Parker Junior Reserve that the brigade visits each year on the anniversary of the Ash Wednesday fires to commemorate the fallen members.

Today, the brigade is stronger than ever, with approximately 50 members including 28 in operational roles.

“We also have hardworking auxiliary members who not only play a supportive role when the brigade is actively fighting fires, but also conduct a number of fundraising activities for the brigade which helps with important upgrades in equipment and facilities,” Ian said.

One of the brigade’s biggest fundraising successes was raising $70,000 towards the cost of a new four-bay station. The brigade has also recently welcomed a new heavy tanker with the latest safety features and equipment.

“With our closest support brigade some 15 to 20 minutes away, having 4,000 litres of water at our disposal can make a huge difference when it comes to tackling a going fire,” Ian said.

“The delivery of the new tanker ensures we can continue to deliver a high standard of service to our community as Beaconsfield Upper brigade has done since the beginning.”

This story is part of a new profile series which highlights our brigades and the great work they do in their communities.

Public link: Brigades of CFA

CFA member link: Brigades of CFA

Each week we will share a story from a different brigade, with all stories to be featured on the CFA website so all communities can learn more about our brigades.  


  • Member News imageNew Heavy Tanker
  • Member News image Tanker - Ash Wednesday Era
Submitted by Georgina Hill