Echuca celebrates 150 years of community service

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Echuca Fire Brigade has come a long way from its inception in 1872, when the local council called for applications for those willing to join a fire brigade. Twelve men joined and Echuca Borough Council had a fire service.


This year, the brigade celebrates 150 years of service to the community. The brigade’s original firefighting equipment consisted of a hose and leather buckets, before progressing to a horse-drawn fire engine in 1878.

Over the years the brigade has moved its station’s location. The original fire service was stationed at what was then the town’s water towers in Heygarth Street – where the Eureka Civic Centre now stands. They remained on Heygarth Street until relocating to a site on Pakenham Street in 1880, known as Paddys Market.

The brigade continued to use this old market building until an extension was built in 1918. After this, the old market building continued to be used as meeting rooms, with the extension used as the fire station where the fire truck was housed. This station remained until 1967, when it was demolished and a three-bay fire station was built on the same site.

As the brigade’s longest serving member, with almost 65 years of service under his belt, former Captain Ron Hooper fondly remembers the Pakenham Street station.

“Alan Eley, the brigade’s historical expert, was actually born in the fire station on Pakenham Street as his father George was resident officer, or ‘station keeper’ at the time,” Ron said. “My older brother was also resident officer for a period. He and his wife moved into the residence after the Eley family moved out.

“The brigade stayed in this new station from 1968 until we moved to a new station in High Street about five years ago.”

Ron is still an active member and has strong friendships in the brigade including would-be member Xavier Moylan. With his dad serving as second lieutenant, eight-year-old Xavier aspires to become captain himself one day. At the recent Urban Junior State Championships, Xavier spent some time trying out virtual reality firefighting, an innovating training system Ron was quite impressed with, given his humble beginnings with firefighting.

Back when Ron first joined the brigade in 1957, a common method of fire suppression was using beaters and knapsacks.

“The beaters consisted of a strong handle, like a shovel handle, and an old service hose plaited together, which looked like a rake with a cross piece at the bottom, all riveted together” Ron said.

“You needed to go around the edge of the burning grass and belt it back in over the burnt area to stop it from spreading.”

Thankfully, Xavier won’t be relying on handmade beaters when he can officially join the brigade, given the improvements in firefighting equipment and techniques since 1957. Young Xavier appreciates the significance of the brigade celebrating its 150-year anniversary, because “there are big signs on the running track and at the station”.

As part of anniversary celebrations, a reunion will be held for past and present members in August – the month Echuca Fire Brigade was first registered with CFA. Another anniversary event, held earlier this year, was a competition to name a book being published by the brigade.

The book is a sequel to ‘Bell to Siren’, originally written to commemorate the first 130 years of the brigade. The new book will cover the past 20 years, with an official launch planned at the brigade anniversary dinner and awards presentation night in October this year.


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