History of Gisborne Fire Brigade
Prior to 1930, fire fighting in the Gisborne area consisted of the local men from the township and surrounding farms rallying together using only rakes, beaters and wet bags.
The men were alerted by the ringing of a bell- once used to muster the farmhands at Wooling Hill farm near Barringo.
Before long, a reel that carried hoses which attached to the town’s water main was housed at the old Blacksmith and Coachbuilders.
On Dec 13, 1930 a public meeting was held and the Gisborne Rural Fire Brigade was formed. Mr. H.C. Dixon was elected Captain.
On the 14th January, 1944, Gisborne experienced a devastating bushfire fanned by hot northerly winds. The fire started on the 3 Chain Road between Tylden and Woodend, by a lady who accidentally threw hot ashes into a blackberry bush.
Brigades from around the area battled for 2 days before the army was called in to assist. The fire was eventually stopped at Diggers Rest. Six houses were lost in the Gisborne township as well as numerous stock losses and thousands of acres of bush were destroyed.
In March of 1944, Gisborne Fire Brigade purchased its first fire truck- a 30 C.W.T Ford fitted with a 200 gallon tank, pump and fittings. Later they purchased an ex army American Hale pump powered by a WW2 Dodge engine, trailer mounted so that it could be towed to the closest available water supply.
On April 26, 1957 Gisborne opened its first fire station on the corner of Hamilton and Brantome Streets. As the town grew, so did the fire brigade. Fire fighting vehicles became an essential part of any fire brigade.
A Running team was established in the late 1960’s to compete in the VUFBA competition.
The team won their first ever Grand Aggregate at Pyramid Hill in 1977, and went on to win the State Championships in 1978. In 1981, Gisborne Council approved re-locating the Gisborne fire station to its current home at the corner of Robertson and Goode Streets.
The station would also become the headquarters of the Mt Macedon Fire Brigades group.
On February 1st, 1983, a fire on the north face of Mt Macedon burnt 6,100 ha including 1,864 ha of State forest. Fifty houses were destroyed. Just 2 weeks later on Wednesday February 16, 1983 saw the devastating Ash Wednesday fires sweep the area. The towns of Macedon and Mt Macedon were virtually wiped out. 7 lives and 400 homes were lost. Along 28km of railway track between Kyneton and Gisborne, 90% of the sleepers burned. The fire was eventually declared under control on Thursday February 17 having razed 20,000 hectares.
In 1994, Gisborne crews were deployed to assist fight a major fire burning out of control to the west of Sydney. A Region 14 Strike team drove all night to assist there weary NSW fire fighting colleagues.
In March 1998, fire again threatened the town of Macedon. Hundreds of acres of pine plantation were lost but thanks to some heroic fire fighting efforts by hundreds of CFA volunteers, the town was saved.In March 2000, Gisborne Fire Brigade came online with this website aimed at providing members and the local community with information about its Brigade.
Christmas 2001/ 2002- more than 600 CFA volunteers and 50 tankers were deployed to the Blue Mountains around Sydney as 100 fires raged out of control in NSW. Entire towns were threatened by fire however no lives were lost and only about 50 homes destroyed. Gisborne Tanker was sent NE of Sydney to Colo Heights as part of a Strike team where a 30,000 hectare fire threatened at least 3 towns in its path. Day and nightshift crews worked 24 hrs a day for over 2 weeks with many members flown in for their ‘tour of duty’.
On 8th January 2003, lightning started 87 fires in Victoria’s north east, developing into the biggest fire affected area in Victoria since 1939. The bushfires burnt over one million hectares (5% of the State) of bush and grazing lands and took more than 5 weeks to contain. 40 dwellings were lost and four people died. Thousands more homes and vast areas of farming lands were saved. The extent of the 2003 fires was worsened by the horrendous 1-in-100-year drought which has gripped Australia. CFA committed thousands of firefighters, with Mt Macedon Group supplying strike team personnel and vehicles for weeks on end.
Summer heat turned to torrential rain on February 3, 2005. Gisborne CFA crews assisted SES with more than 100 jobs after torrential rain and gale force winds caused an avalanche of assistance calls straining an overloaded 000 emergency network. About 120 millimetres or five inches of rain was dumped on Melbourne in 24 hours. It is the highest daily amount in more than 100 years. The temperature reached just 12.9 degrees after hitting 36 on the day before, and Victoria received more than the month’s average rainfall in one day.On January 22, 2006, Victoria faced another extreme fire danger day with temperatures reaching 43c. By days end, major blazes were out of control in the Grampians and the Brisbane Ranges/ Anakie area. Gisborne fire fighters joined strike teams sent to both fires. About 170,000 hectares and 30 homes were burnt.
Victoria faced major drought in the summer of 2006 – 2007. Lightning strikes on December 1 ignited numerous bushfires across eastern Victoria which would burn for more than 69 days. The fires were to become known as the Great Divide Complex of fires- stretching from the north east to Gippsland. The total area burnt: 1,048,238 hectares. The fire scorched towns like Gaffneys Creek, Burns Bridge, Mt Beauty, Bright, Wandiligong, and Tawonga.? Volunteers from Gisborne FB joined 14,500 CFA personnel? for strike team duties in towns such as Tolmie, Bright, Whitfield, Mt Buffallo, Bruthen, Swifts Creek Mt Buller, Merrijig, Tolmie, Dargo, Briagalong and more. This is a living, breathing history and many more significant incidents will dominate the headlines of the future.
Black Saturday- Feb 7 2009
The fires of 7 February 2009 were the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history, occurring after more than a decade of drought and significantly below average rainfall.
The conditions were unprecedented and the fire danger extreme.
The many fires which burned across the State in the weeks up to and on that day caused enormous life and property loss. Tragically, 173 people died and many others were seriously injured. More than 2000 properties, 60 businesses, significant community assets and almost 430,000 hectares of land were destroyed. More than 10,000 personnel, including firefighters, support workers, police and
emergency services personnel and community volunteers were involved in the response, which was the largest ever co-ordinated emergency response and community recovery operation.
Gisborne fire fighters played a significant role in combatting this fire. Our tanker was part of a strike team that escorted a convoy of ambulances into Marysville that night to find the town totally devastated in the wake of the fire.
202- The History of the Gisborne Fire Brigade
A new book titled ‘202- A History of the Gisborne Fire Brigade’ was officially launched with a presentation made to the The Gisborne & Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society.
The hard bound colour book explores not only the history of the fire brigade, but the rich history of the township itself.
The project took about 2.5 years of research and writing, with much of the oral history gained through interviews and chats with locals.
The book is authored by Peter Hewett, a long time friend and colleague of fire fighters at Gisborne.
“This is not a book just about fires- they certainly get a mention, especially those incidents that caused a change to Gisborne Fire Brigade. It is more about the spirit and atmosphere of the fire service, the individuals who made impact; the humour and the tragedy; the criticism and hard work”.
Many well known Gisborne identities played a part in the history of Gisborne’s volunteer fire service, with many family connections going back generations.
The project was made possible by Captain Tony Wade who had the foresight to pursue this history, with much of the initial research recorded by Dawn Whittall.
“There is so much history attached to our organization, that we felt that it was important to capture it in writing”.
“202- The History of the Gisborne Fire Brigade” is available to purchase for $45.00 OR $55.00 posted to you within Australia.
You can buy the book at selected local outlets:
- Gisborne Fire Station- Robertson St, Gisborne – pickup only on Sunday mornings or other times by arrangment.
- Computer Connect- 9/29 Hamilton St, Gisborne
- Gisborne & Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society- 2-4 Hamilton Street, Gisborne