Willaura celebrates a milestone

On 22 and 23 April, Willaura Fire Brigade celebrated its centenary with a dinner and open day.

By Heather Fleming

A formal dinner was held at Willaura Memorial Hall, where CFA Board member Tim Young urged the local community to remain proud of its brigade’s achievements and to remember that, despite the problems every small community has to grapple with, if it can keep putting water on fires then some of these problems will disappear.

Ararat Rural City Councillor Peter Beales noted that we’ve come a long way since horseback call-outs and beaters, but the quality and commitment of volunteers hasn’t altered.

Westmere Group Office John Chapman noted the importance of Willaura as the oldest and largest brigade in the Westmere Group. He also reflected on the important role its members had played in the development of radio communications within CFA.

In his address, Captain Anthony Heard reiterated a common theme of the evening. “If you want to get to know your community, join your local brigade,” he said. “Willaura Fire Brigade is the community, and if you move into town that’s how you get to know each other.”

The evening included the launch of the newly-published history of fire services in Willaura From Buckets to Brigades, and the launch of a DVD Fire Yarns featuring a recording of long-time brigade members who gathered at the station last December to reminisce.

A copy of the 1977 training film Water is the Weapon was included as well. It was filmed in Willaura using local brigade members, some of whom were present at the dinner.

Copies of both are available for purchase and those wishing to do so should contact the Brigade.

There were also service award presentations including a 70-year medal for still-active brigade member Les Bright.

The next morning the brigade’s doors were opened to the community, and there was a display of vintage and modern fire trucks, a running team demonstration and BBQ.

Vintage fire engines were displayed at the Recreation Reserve along with Willaura’s current tankers and various private units from around the district.

Horsham’s Ray Carman and his fellow enthusiasts brought down quite a collection of significant vehicles. These included an 1839 Shand-Mason horse drawn 20-man pumper, a 1905 hose laying cart, a 1953 Bedford four-wheel drive tanker, a 1956 Austin pumper and a Garford pumper.

The crowd on Sunday was reminded of the fun that running team competitions brought, as they cheered on the next generation performing the same manoeuvres that they themselves had mastered so many years ago.

President and former Captain Richard Laidlaw remarked that the weekend had brought the community together. All ages had enjoyed celebrating with their much-valued brigade and see its history laid out before them.

Photos: courtesy of Peter Pickering, Ararat Advertiser

Author: Duncan Russell