On Sunday 16 January, a plaque was unveiled to mark 100 years of community service by Sutton Grange and Myrtle Creek Fire Brigade in District 2.
The plaque was unveiled by distinguished past ex-captains Bill Byrne (who joined the brigade in 1943 and was captain for seven years and a lieutenant for 24 years) and Mac Barty (who joined in 1956 and was captain for four years and a lieutenant for 22 years).
In 1922, the brigade was known as Myrtle Creek and Sutton Grange Bush Fire Brigade and a few years after the devastating fires in 1944 it became known as Sutton Grange and Myrtle Creek Rural Fire Brigade. Current brigade members think the name change occurred in 1951 when an Austin tanker (pictured below) was given to the brigade and it was named Sutton Grange tanker.
Brigade Captain Noel Davis has written many local history books and is currently working on the brigade's history book to mark the centenary.
"We invited all neighbouring brigades, community members and ex-brigade volunteers to the event and about 100 people attended," Noel said.
Noel gave a speech, followed by the unveiling of the plaque. In his speech, he outlined some of the brigade’s history.
“There have been two major bushfires that have devastated our district since it was settled. The first was 6 February 1851 when a third of the state was burnt. The second fire was on 14 January 1944 when our district was again totally destroyed. We lost six homes and many outbuildings. In both cases, what wasn't burnt on the day was burnt the following days when the south wind arrived.
“On 16 January 1922, a meeting was held in the old Sutton Grange Hall that founded our brigade. At that meeting it was decided that members who joined paid five shillings and about 32 people joined.
The money was used to purchase 10 floggers and a strip pump.
“From those humble beginnings, our brigade assets would now be in excess of $1.5 million and late next year we are getting a shared medium tanker stationed at Myrtle Creek to enhance the eastern end of our brigade area. This tanker will be shared with Axe Creek brigade.”
Just before and just after the centenary celebration, brigade members turned out to three grass fires.
"Last Saturday, we had to put out a grass fire that was caused by a ride-on mower, and then on Sunday afternoon, following our celebrations, we had two call-outs for grass fires. Unfortunately, the motor on the pump of the Sutton Grange tanker wasn’t working properly and was replaced by the district spare tanker just in time for our brigade to turn out,” Noel said.
“We don't have many fires, so to have three in two days was unbelievable.
"People are often unaware about the dangers and how easily they can start a fire. On Saturday, the person was mowing at 3pm on a very hot day. To reduce the risk, you should mow first thing in the morning when it's cooler.
"Luckily, there wasn't a wind, so the fire wasn't too serious.
Brigade members are sometimes frustrated by residents’ lack of awareness.
"We visit new residents in the area to talk to them about fire safety, but it's sometimes hard to convince them about the risks until something happens."
- Mac Barty (left) and Bill Byrne unveiled the plaque
- The brigade's Austin tanker in 1962 with crew Stan Broad, Lindsay Broad, Bert Broad, Reg Broad and David James
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