From L-R: Chief Officer Jason Heffernan, former Echuca Captain Ron Hooper, Campaspe Shire Mayor Chrissy Weller, Deputy Chief Officer Gavin Thompson
Echuca Fire Brigade has used its remarkable 150th anniversary milestone to confirm the brigade is more than equipped for the future as much as it celebrated its past.
The message hammered home when 20-year-old Daniel Phyland was named the brigade’s Firefighter of the Year at the same function which saw the Hooper family – Ron, 65 years, wife Joy 56 years, and their son Mark, 34 years – recognised for 155 years of combined service.
To put the brigade’s sesquicentenary in perspective, Captain Daniel Moylan told guests at Saturday night’s anniversary dinner (8 Oct 2022) that Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade wasn’t established until 1891 – 19 years after Echuca. He then compared Echuca’s seniority on a global scale with the New York Fire Department, founded in 1865 – just seven years before Echuca.
“I am proud to be able to stand beside every member of our brigade today just as we are all equally proud to stand here in the footsteps of the hundreds and hundreds of local men and women who have gone before us across those 150 years,” Captain Daniel Moylan said.
“You look at the members we have with 50-years-plus service and then see younger firefighters such as Daniel Phyland, who is only 20 but has already been part of the brigade for six years, all working together.
“You know the future is in good hands when you have a new member, such as Doug Amos, who has been with the brigade just 12 months but has already attended 126 callouts and you know your brigade will continue to deliver its commitment to serve and protect our community.”
Daniel Phyland, who looked stunned when his name was read out (as Firefighter of the Year), was still trying to comprehend what had just happened when he was swamped by friends and members after receiving the award.
“I did not see this coming, it is such an incredible shock,” Daniel Phyland said.
“I started as a junior after passing the station one day on my way home from school, and saw some of the current juniors having a good time, so I thought I would give it a go. That was six years ago and it is now such a major part of my life, and I have made so many good friends.”
A highlight of the dinner was the presentation of life membership and service awards.
Three new life members – Warren Dwyer, Robert Farrow and Mark Hooper – were honoured while service medals went to the following:
- Vlad Kowal – 5 years
- Warren Dwyer – 35 years
- Norm Childs – 45 years
- Ron Hooper – 65 years
- Mark Hooper – National Clasp
Captain Daniel Moylan pointed out the growing strength of the brigade’s junior program, which has seen a resurgence post-COVID-19 restrictions with Wednesday night's meetings seeing numbers grow from eight to 20.
He says a lot of that credit goes to brigade members who have worked hard to provide the junior participants with an appealing mix of an introduction to firefighting responsibilities to competition and fitness training.
“Watching from the side-lines on some of these nights, it's fantastic to see the changes in these youngsters many of whom go from being shy and not saying too much to having some great discussions with each other and building great friendships – friendships we hope will grow into the brigade,” Daniel added.
“I also want to give a special shout out to the three members – Darren McGarvie, Col Atkinson and 4th Lieutenant Jordan Simpson – who are the team inspiring our next generation of volunteer members.
“Post COVID it was also great for us to be able to get back into this year’s Good Friday Appeal, raising almost $31,000. And eight members recently took part in the Melbourne Stair Climb to raise $8,000 for mental health charities.
“And speaking of members who have gone above and beyond the call, we already have eight members attend more than 100 calls for the year – Lieutenants Mark Hooper, Alex Green, Rhys Pontelandolfo and Jordan Simpson, as well as Shae Bruns, Doug Amos, Carter Williams and Daniel Phyland.
“We also have several others coming very close to that number and I believe this is a truly amazing effort by those members and is a testament to their dedication to their local community and CFA.”
The brigade also used the dinner to launch volume two of its book Bell to Siren. Volume one covered the first 130 years of the Brigade to 2002 and the supplementary 64-page edition filled in the gaps from the most recent 20 years.
Photos by Steve Huntley
- From L-R: Chief Officer Jason Heffernan, Mark Hooper, Campaspe Shire Mayor Chrissy Weller, Deputy Chief Officer Gavin Thompson
- From L-R: Echuca Captain Daniel Moylan, Echuca Firefighter of the Year Daniel Phyland, 1st Lt Alex Green
- Echuca Firefighter of the Year Daniel Phyland
- From L-R: Echuca Fire Brigade members Charlee Amos, 4lt Jordan Simpson, Daniel Phyland, Shae Bruns
- From L-R: Echuca Captain Daniel Moylan, Mark Hooper, 1st Lt Alex Green