The role of an HQ brigade

Member News image


On a visit to South Australia in 2004, the then District 17 Operations Manager Dale Russell met with South Australia Country Fire Service members.


Dale learned about SA’s headquarters brigades, which had an important role supporting brigades on the fireground.

Dale could see the potential of establishing headquarters brigades in CFA and, following support from the Chief Officer, he spent 12 months promoting his idea to CFA management across Victoria.

HQ brigades can draw on the experiences and expertise of former active members from brigades across a district, so that CFA retains important knowledge. These members enthusiastically contribute to CFA and feel they still belong to the CFA family. HQ brigades are also a good option for community members who want to support CFA but don’t want to be firefighters.

CFA has 19 headquarters brigades including District 17 Headquarters Brigade, established in 2006 following a public meeting in Horsham. Over the past 18 years District 17 HQ Brigade has assisted at many significant incidents, including the 2009 fires, Grampians fires in 2013 and 2014, the 2022 Poolaigelo fire, and major floods in Horsham and the wider district in 2011.

Currently, the brigade has 28 members, of whom 17 have been brigade management team members in other brigades. Brigade members carry out a range of activities to support firefighters, including:

  • on the fireground by establishing and managing staging areas as required, providing essential supplies (for example, meals and fuel) and communications
  • decamping from a fireground; by relocating personnel, vehicles and rehabilitating staging areas
  • maintaining skills and equipment in readiness to respond.

Brigade members also take on roles in incident control centres, field management, use their well-equipped field operations vehicle, and support the welfare of group personnel. Their extensive experience is also valued as leaders of fire safety training, public information sessions and school visits targeted at both agricultural industries and householders.

Since 2006, the brigade has acquired crucial equipment that is integral to its support role, including a field operations vehicle. This Mercedes Benz van is fitted with extensive communication equipment, including a radio mast and internet access, and its own power generator so that it can operate in any location.

They also have a staging area trailer containing all the equipment needed to establish and manage a staging area, a mobile cool room trailer with cold bottled water, and a fuel trailer with a power pump for quick fill. In the near future, the brigade will have a twin hygiene trailer unit to provide toilets and washing facilities on the fireground.

Brigade Captain Graeme Lewis said his members have a lot of valuable experience.

“The brigade draws from a large knowledge base of former active CFA members,” Graeme said. “However, we also have a number of people who are new to the CFA family who want to support the district in any way they can.

“A recent achievement of the brigade was to receive funding from both the Federal Government’s Stronger Communities Program and from the Victorian Government’s VESEP initiative to purchase a hygiene trailer unit. This will provide better amenities to support our fellow CFA members.”

At the last presentation dinner, 11 brigade members (nine of whom are shown in the above photo) received awards representing 465 years of service. Also, four National Medal 15‑year service clasps were presented.

Photo: Back Row: Maree Varley, Ray Carman, Kevin Bolwell, David Eltringham, Dale Russell. Front Row: Doug Mitchell, Graham Hateley, Alan Hutchinson, Geoff Stratford.


Submitted by David Eltringham OAM