EMMAGOOL BUSH FIRE BRI­GADE TURNS 100

Dubbo Photo News - - Feature - BY SCOTT TOURLE

ON Tues­day Novem­ber 7, 1916 the Dubbo Bush Bri­gade was launched. The mayor, Al­der­man Ge­orge Palmer, said the in the 30 years he had been in the district he had never seen such pro­lific growth in the area. The aim of the meet­ing was to en­cour­age the for­ma­tion of Bush fire bri­gades in the sur­round­ing area with the out­ly­ing cen­tres to set their own bound­aries.

Within the week, the Emmagool Bush Fire Bri­gade was formed with Mr John Steven­son of Terra­bella as the Captain.

The area of the Bri­gade, as stated in 1922, was from Terra bella to Lit­tle River Bridge, along Lit­tle River Welling­ton­springs road, then by a line to in­clude The Springs, Kil­laloola (Old Nullawa) along Ob­ley Road to Chain of Ponds Creek, then around Dil­laderry to Har­vey Ranges, then by Belowrie Creek to take in Hock­eys, Trethowans, Maloneys, Pas­coes Mclach­lans and Fox and Sons then along the Ob­ley Road to Cum­boogle, up the Mac­quarie to Terra­bella.

In ef­fect it took in all the area which is cur­rently un­der the Bene­long Bri­gade and about half of the Cum­boogle Bri­gade.

The for­ma­tion of the Bri­gade proved its worth at Terra­bella in 1917 when a fire headed to­wards The Springs and Cock­leshell Cor­ner. It was stated that the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the Bri­gade and the use of des­ig­nated water carts were very ef­fec­tive in stop­ping the out­break.

There had been many large fires in the area prior to this;

1888 – A fire on Wam­ban­galang of over 25 miles in cir­cum­fer­ence which lasted for over three weeks.

1900 – A large fire which in­cluded Derowie, The Springs and Goono which raged over two days.

1904 – 8000 acres burned 18 miles along the Ob­ley Road

1913 - A large fire burnt all of The Mead­ows and de­vel­oped into a fire with a 14 mile front which burnt into Emmagool, Ierne and Eu­lan­dool. Thou­sands of acres were burnt with miles of fenc­ing, wheat crops, hay and wheat stacks de­stroyed. The loss of stock was also con­sid­er­able.

1921 - The largest fire in the district was started by work­ers on the Dub­bo­mo­long rail­way line. It started at Cock­leshell Cor­ner and trav­elled through Wy­chitella to Bene­long and Terra­bella. It then took in Mead­ow­bank where it burnt down the wool­shed and many other build­ings and pro­gressed up the Lit­tle River.

Eu­lan­dool, The Springs, Wir­roo and Kil­laloola (Nullawa) were burnt out with the fire con­tained in the hills five miles from Ob­ley, along the Ob­ley Road and Pad­dys Creek. News­pa­per reports stated 160,000 acres burnt but I think it would be closer to 70,000. John Steven­son was still Captain at this stage.

1922 – 1000 acres of The Mead­ows was burnt. This fire was one of at least a dozen fires to oc­cur over a two week pe­riod.

There is a good ar­ti­cle in the Dubbo Lib­eral and and Mac­quarie Ad­vo­cate of Novem­ber 1922 which de­scribes the Emmagool Bush Fire Bri­gade. It states: “A per­fect or­gan­i­sa­tion ca­pa­bly com­manded”. Mr Arthur Wright was then Captain and the bri­gade had 18 water carts, hun­dreds of beat­ers, scores of axes and rakes.

How things don’t change. The ar­ti­cle says “Un­ques­tion­ably, the Emmagool Bri­gade is the best or­gan­i­sa­tion of its kind in the west, if not the State”. This is an ar­ti­cle well worth read­ing.

The open­ing of the Dubbo-mo­long rail­way line in 1925 was prob­a­bly one of the great­est fire threats to the district. Many fires started from steam lo­co­mo­tives and also the rail­way staff burn­ing off de­bris or in the process of cre­at­ing fire breaks.

In 1927 a Bush Fires Royal Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended that wax matches should be banned; that the Crown and Rail­ways Com­mis­sion­ers should be brought un­der the pro­vi­sions of the Care­less use of Fire Act; that all trac­tors work­ing in the har­vest field should be fit­ted with chem­i­cal fire ex­tin­guish­ers and the sug­ges­tion that Bush Fire Bri­gades be formed in all parts of the State.

Mr Arthur Wright re­mained as Captain un­til 1947, a to­tal of at least 26 years and the reins were handed over to Lyle Gra­ham un­til 1966, 19 years. Harry Gra­ham was elected in 1966 and served un­til 1988, 22 years. An­drew Lane was the Sec­re­tary/trea­surer from 1942 un­til 1988, 46 years. The con­tin­ued ser­vice of these peo­ple to the Emmagool Bush Fire Bri­gade has been un­sur­passed.

There are many peo­ple who can be recog­nised for their ser­vice as they have been recorded in the an­nals of his­tory but there are many more who have been be­hind the scene who have had the im­por­tant, if not the most im­por­tant, role of sup­port to those in the field.

Spe­cial recog­ni­tion goes to Bea Gra­ham, Harry’s wife, who, while he was Captain for 22 years, co­or­di­nated the call­ing out of vol­un­teers, man­ning the ra­dio to di­rect traf­fic and then ral­ly­ing the ladies of the Bri­gade to pro­vide food and water for a long cam­paign.

The sup­port of Bea and all those other ladies were cru­cial to the suc­cess of the men in the field.

In 1952, Captain Lyle Gra­ham wrote a report on fires, from light­ning strikes, which started on “Carinya” and “Dil­laderry” and they then had to move to the Har­vey Ranges to try and stop an­other fire reach­ing the Emmagool area. They failed but af­ter a week of con­tin­ued fight­ing con­tained the fire at the ex­pense of very fa­tigued vol­un­teers.

More re­cently, on Christ­mas Day 1984, a fire started in the Mi­nore area which burnt out 7,800 hectares and was only pulled up on the Ob­ley Road with the as­sis­tance of a shower of rain. Re­gret­tably we lost a very val­ued friend and vol­un­teer, Col Wither­ford, from the Cum­boogle Bri­gade when he was over­come by flames cut­ting a fence to al­low trucks to move through. The fol­low­ing Jan­uary a fire started near the Lit­tle River and burnt over 5,000 hectares even­tu­ally be­ing stopped near Arthurville. It took over two weeks for this fire to be fully con­tained.

In 1990, 20 mem­bers of the Emmagool Bri­gade were flown into Nyn­gan to as­sist in the sand-bag­ging of the levy bank sur­round­ing the town. The flood wa­ters were ris­ing faster that man-power could stem the flow of water and with the Her­cules and the airstrip un­der water we stayed the night to as­sist in the evac­u­a­tion of the town the next day.

The Bri­gade’s role has changed dra­mat­i­cally over the years with more mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents to con­tend with; the use of air­craft to as­sist in con­tain­ment of fires; bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tions and struc­ture of chain of com­mand; up to date tankers which give a quicker re­sponse and a safer en­vi­ron­ment to work in; greater flex­i­bil­ity for oth­ers to come in and help us as well as we help­ing oth­ers.

There have been many changes but to­day’s Bri­gade mem­bers have grat­i­tude for those who have gone be­fore who have been pre­pared to pro­tect our com­mu­nity and those who will do so into the fu­ture.

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