Wanneroo Central Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade has grown over the years to become one of the bigger bush fire service brigades in Western Australia.

However, initially there was no volunteer firefighters and no equipment. On the 15th of the 8th, 1949, a letter from the Wanneroo Road Board detailed that there would be a meeting on the 26th of August 1949 discussing formation of a Bush Fire Brigade. From there on debate, steps forward and steps backward occurred.

With residents failing to comply with the BushFires Act, burning  became more dangerous and policing of illegal burns, and performance of safe and professional burns, was needed. Further, equipment for fire suppression was also needed. With disastrous fires like those in Dwellingup, meetings were subsequently held for brigade formation discussion.

On the 23 of February 1961 a public meeting voted that a brigade be formed. Action was also taken to increase fire safety consciousness of residents and the suggestion that Road Board employees should act as firefighters and attend fires when required. Prosecution of arsonists and those that caused fires due to negligence was also suggested and eventually occurred. Requests for equipment including knapsacks, axes, fire rakes and beaters, hoses, nozzles and tanks were also made by the Chief Bushfire Control Officer (of the time) to the Wanneroo Road Board. The equipment was ordered on the 20th of July 1961.

Various brigades were registered and various issues with fire appliances also occured. The Government would not fund provision and maintenance of equipment and thus issues also existed over funding. Taxing the residents was one option explored. On the 18th of December, 1961, five (5) Bush Fire Brigades were registered. Fire equipment was then distributed to the appropriate areas in 1962.

On the 18th of April, 1962, the first Annual General Meeting of the Wanneroo Central Brigade was held. At this meeting the Brigade Officers were appointed and so officially creating the fully operational Wanneroo Central Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade.

Fire breaks, burning and firefighting were finally occuring in a professional manner in the Wanneroo area. Prosecution of those illegally burning saw many fined in 1962. Thousands of man hours were spent fighting multiple fires during the 1961/62 season.  However, the next year saw less fires and less hours of fire suppression. Protective burning was also a factor in protection of the Wanneroo area and was completed by the forestry department and local council. Issues existed over the lack of community will to comply and act appropriately, as well as the lack of communication.

In 1963 it was suggested the council take over the firefighting responsibilities and that this would be advantageous in looking after and maintaining the equipment. A social gathering later in the year had the volunteers thanked for their past service and told that it was now the role of the council workman to fight fires (still as volunteers). New radios were purchased and communications improved. Consideration and future experimentation with water bombing, aerial assault craft was also a topic at the gathering.

On the 29th of November 1963 the brigades registration was cancelled. In May of 1964 it was advised that 4×4 vehicles become available for firefighting purposes. A meeting was held on the 2nd of November 1964 to re-form a Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade run by local volunteers. General brigade equipment in December of 1965 consisted of a Chevrolet 4×4 and a Landrover both with pump and hose reel. A heavier appliance in 1967 was then ordered (an Austin 4×4).

The role of those involved in fighting fires in the area consisted of structure, car and bushfires. Chemical extinguishers and two way radios (amongst other things) were requested in 1968. Firebreak inspections also occurred from the air and by inspectors on the land. An after hours base was set up to provide 24hr emergency service. It was equipped with a two way radio and manned by traffic inspectors wives.

By 1970 Central, South, Yanchep, North and Diamond Farm brigades had been formed. In 1972/73 Thornycroft (a crash tender appliance of the brigades) was requiring replacement and protective equipment was supplied to volunteers. A Toyota 4×4 mobile comms unit, a Bedford, a Ferguson tractor with plough, a Chevrolet, 3 Nissan Fast Attack Units, 4 Toyota LandCruiser Fast Attack Units and a Nissan Control Unit made up the fleet in 1973. Earth moving equipment was also utilised for fires.

In 1976 Quinns Rocks VBFB was formed and in 1980 more brigades were formed totalling 8 overall. The area still lacked a fire and rescue brigade (planning for one in Joondalup existed). Rationalisation of brigades occurred and some amalgamated. In 1981 some standardisation of brigades in the Swan region occurred (e.g. a golden yellow appliance colour was adopted).

On the 6th of July 1986 the CALM (now DPaW) Wanneroo office opened. In 1987 the old Quinns Fire Shed was installed. The same year had the WA Fire Brigade install a fire station in Yanchep for the Yanchep/Two Rocks area. The region’s radios were fitted in all appliances enabling better communication. CALM installed firetowers and attended fires in their area (reducing turn-outs by the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades).

In 1990 a permanent off-road medium tanker was stationed at Joondalup fire station and the WA Fire Brigade Board took over control of the Yanchep/Two Rocks Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade in 1991. In 1995 the Fire and Rescue Service took responsibility for the urban areas of Merriwa, Quinns Rocks, Clarkson and Wanneroo Road from Flynn Drive to Pinjar Road.

The WA Fire and Rescue Service reported good teamwork between themselves, CALM and the VBFBs. In 1997 aerial water bombing was a key feature of the fire season.

As mentioned above, one appliance was a crash tender initially stationed at Perth airport. The 1962 Thornycroft Nubian 6×6 was powered by a 6.6L Rolls Royce B81 petrol engine. The engine could produce 225 horsepower. Some of the Nubians carried 3600L of water and 200L of foam compound. Water and foam could then be delivered via the roof mounted monitor or various hose lines on those Thornycrofts. Our ‘Big Bertha’ was more of a tanker. It was able to hold 8, 000 litres of water and does not have a roof mounted monitor. She was used as a water point for the brigade due to the lack of water and hydrants in the rural areas.

This tender was fitted with a special bull bar that had various blades fixed to it so that the tender may slice it’s way through airport fences to reach crash sites. It was based on British War Department vehicle plans. An example being the rear suspension which was based on the department’s subsidy scheme. Thus the brigade’s Thornycroft was an appliance of strength and great fire suppression capabilities. Currently the brigade and the City of Wanneroo are attempting to restore ‘Old Thorny”.

Helitacs and fixed wing water bombers became a major factor of fire suppression after 1997. Ground crews were equipped with 4×4 (early type) light tanker appliances and an array of heavier appliances. The Wanneroo Brigade grew to a four (4) appliance brigade as did Quinns Rocks. These are the only original brigades left. Areas like Hillarys (Whitfords) and Burns Beach became serviced by Fire and Rescue as they morphed into an area consisting of urban development. Joondalup serviced the sprawlling urban area with it’s three (3) appliances (Medium Pumper, Light Tanker and Medium Tanker 4×4). Wangara Fire and Rescue was also established servicing the light industrial area in which it was and still is based in, as well as the local urban area. The rural urban fringe (RUF) area was, and still is, serviced by DPaW, FRS and the VBFBs. The urban area’s hinterland, beyond the RUF, is divided into VBFB and DPaW land. However, both agencies often work together to extinguish fires between and within eachother’s patch.

The expansion of the urban area has led to Joondalup and Wangara Fire and Rescue Services having a bigger region to service in a Northerly and Easterly direction. DPaW and the Bush Fire Brigades work alongside each other in areas within the RUF also (like Yellagonga Regional Park).  Butler FRS has also been formed due to expansion of the urban area along Perth’s northern corridor. The VBFB brigades and the FRS are uniform with standardised Light Tankers, 3.4s, 4.4s and other appliances. New trucks like the 12.2 and other bulk water appliances are also features of contemporary firefighting. Fixed wing water bombers, the fleet of Helitacs (668, 669, 670, 671, 681 and 682), the air intelligence helicopter and loaned Skycranes make up the air fleet.

Fire and Rescue’s heavy vehicles (e.g. Medium Pumpers series 3 and 4, Heavy Pumpers, etc) and light appliances, DPAW’s range of Tankers and slip-on units and the VBFB Light Tankers and tanker appliances, like the Wanneroo 4.4, along with the firefighters they carry, form a strong and cohesive unit of bushfire defence and suppression. With an effective and efficient relationship, as well as good training and great vehicles, WA’s fire services are ready and perfectly capable of providing strong and vast protection in the bushfire seasons, even when more than one major incident is occuring at once.

Marty, a Skycrane helitac, was a feature of the 2011/2012 fire season, enhancing the strength of these services and making firefighters’ jobs slightly easier. A Skycrane has returned for each season there on, and in 2013/2014 McDermott Aviation Australia supplied WA with its vast fleet of helitacs, which proved to be vital. The City of Wanneroo also began it’s Fire Protection Officer program during this time, with 3 full time firefighters supplying day time fire coverage of the City.

With home owners doing their part,  and with a strong and well prepared bushfire suppression team, each fire season is met with confidence. This is a team that Wanneroo has been, and forever will be, proud to be a part of.

For More Information About the Thornycroft Nubian Crashtender (1962) Please Refer to This Archive:
Thornycroft Nubian

Emergency Number 000