While disappointing, the decision to formally cancel Hamilton Fire Brigade’s 150th anniversary celebration has not dampened the members’ pride in their historic brigade.
Hamilton Fire Brigade reached the significant milestone during 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the postponement of planned celebrations until 2021 when the expectation was that life would have returned to normal.
Brigade Secretary Celeste Benoit said unfortunately, as Victoria faced ongoing lockdowns and restrictions, it was not possible to safely conduct the activities that had been planned in 2021 either and the tough decision has now been made to cancel the 150 year celebrations.
“It’s a shame as we’re very proud of our history and the work of our volunteers over 150 years to make us the successful brigade we are today,” she said.
Established in 1870 in response to local community concerns after a number of fires in the town, the brigade didn’t even have access to reliable water, pumps or hoses so the brigade was designated a hook and ladder brigade.
“This meant if a fire was too big to deal with using buckets of water then the brigade had to stop the fire spreading by physically tearing down neighbouring buildings which proved an unpopular method,” Captain Malcolm Anderson said.
Years of campaigning saw reticulated water (mains water) piped into the CBD which provided greater access to water but still relied on the members manually getting the fire hoses from the station to the fire, bare the mains pipe by digging a hole and drill a hole into the then wooded pipes into which they pushed a standpipe to get the water out and into the hoses.
“Gradually the brigade was able to improve equipment and received a motorised Pumper in the 1920s which laid the foundations for the modern fire-fighting equipment available today,” Captain Anderson said.
The current fire station in Cox Street is Hamilton Fire Brigade’s third. The first station in Gray Street near the Post Office was relocated to the other end of Gray Street next to the Argyle Arms Hotel in 1901, where it remained until the current station was opened in 1994.
Stations and equipment are not the only things to evolve over the brigade’s 150 years. Hamilton Fire Brigade responsibilities include responding to grass and scrub fires, structure fires, technical rope rescue across SW Victoria and Hazmat support.
The brigade supports other emergency services such as VICSES and Victoria Police at road crash rescues, storm and flood events, and supports Ambulance Victoria at accidents with patient lifts and access to patients. Hamilton Brigade also supports other agencies and brigades with planned burning, and deploys to fires across the State and interstate as part of CFA strike teams.
“Operational response is a major role of the Hamilton Brigade so members must have the appropriate skills to undertake the range of incidents they may be called to,” Lieutenant Nigel Rabbitts said.
“The brigade places a lot of emphasis on training, maintaining skills and working as a team both internally, with other brigades and within a multi-agency situation.”
Close to half of the brigade’s 70 members are active firefighters responding to incidents. Members come from a wide range of backgrounds with varying levels of experience.
“The brigade also has a Junior brigade which develops fire skills, teamwork and leadership while having fun doing a range of activities and participating in fire related competitions locally and across the state,” Lieutenant Sara Showler said.
Like other volunteer emergency services, CFA provides its members with a broad range of specialised skills through training and providing equipment..
“As a brigade of volunteers it is essential that members are supported by their employers who permit their staff to drop what they are doing and respond to the station when needed,” Lieutenant Cody Dickson said.
“It has a cost but it’s reassuring to know that if the community ever needs help someone will be there to respond. Just as important is the support and understanding from family and friends – missed time with family or friends is part of helping out the community and we are grateful for their support.”
Hamilton Fire Brigade fosters a strong social network as well as responding to incidents and the brigade participates in many community events such as the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal, ANZAC Day parade, school visits and Fire Safe Kids programs. These are great ways to help spread fire safety messages, increase awareness of what the brigade does and potentially attract new members.
“Being part of the brigade has been referred to as being part of a big family,” Lieutenant Liam Kavanagh said. “Our brigade has a long and proud history of serving the community and members strive to continue these traditions of community service in times of emergency.”
- Hamilton Fire Station – Gray St next to the Argyle Arms Hotel.
- Current Cox St Fire Station and appliances – pre Christmas 2018.
- 2019 Brigade member annual photo.
- Target building fire 2004 - Gray St Hamilton
- Technical Rescue – Steep angle training Nigretta Falls 2015.