Long before Research was overtaken by urban sprawl, the threat of bushfire was constant and very real. As a newlywed, Allan Roberts would spend weekends with the family in Research and weekdays in Williamstown.
“My maternal grandfather was very active with the Research Brigade and Dad built some solid friendships in the area. It was one of the main reasons he and Mum decided to move to Research,” said Allan’s daughter, Noeleen English.
Allan joined Research Rural Brigade in 1962 and was a dedicated CFA member for 59 years until his death earlier this year. In recognition of his legacy, CFA has named Roberts Road at VEMTC Central Highlands in his honour.
Allan’s love of firefighting saw him move into the career ranks in 1968 where he had a long career spanning more than 20 years. But Allan’s commitment and passion for volunteer firefighting and his local brigade never wavered.
“The brigade was part of the family growing up. We spent a lot of time there; my brothers and I were junior members. Dad would officiate at the State Champs and train the brigade teams for the runs,” said Noeleen.
He knew his way around automobiles and would work on brigade vehicles.
“Dad helped build a tanker from a cab chassis which the Brigade bought from Ford. It was a great firefighting appliance with a 400-gallon tank, pump, equipment, lights and sirens.”
Throughout the 1990s, Allan was a Deputy Group Officer then Group Officer of Lower Yarra and during this time made many improvements to operations, including the purchase of the Lower Yarra Control Unit.
One of the notable fires Allan attended was the Eltham Barrel Fire. The fire is writ in local lore – an iconic building claimed to be the world's largest barrel at the time was gutted, and the coroner believed it was arson. Around 60 firefighters from 13 units battled the blaze for over six hours.
Prior to his retirement Allan became a driving instructor. The experience was fulfilling and continued well past retirement. It wasn’t long before he had clocked up countless hours of volunteer training in licencing as well as on-road and off-road driving.
Through his involvement with Firefighters Credit Union, as a Board Member and then Chairman, Allan continued to support and encourage volunteer recruitment through financial means.
“The annual award, and what it represented, was something he was very proud of.”