Established April 1962
Wanneroo Central Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade has changed significantly over the years, becoming one of the biggest brigades in WA. Initially, however, there was no equipment and there were no volunteer firefighters. The following information has been compiled from historical documentation, such as letters, meeting minutes and local government records.
On 15 August 1949, a letter from the Wanneroo Roads Board detailed that a meeting would be scheduled on the 26th of August to discuss the formation of a Bush Fire Brigade. This discussion planted the seeds for a brigade to be formed, but it would be years before a brigade was actually registered.
As a result of residents failing to comply with the Bush Fires Act 1954, hazard reduction burning practices were becoming more dangerous. The policing of illegal burns, and the performance of safe and professional hazard reduction activities, was therefore needed. In addition, equipment for fire suppression was required, especially with disastrous fires occurring across the state, such as those experienced by Dwellingup in 1961. Momentum and support for a bush fire brigade was increasing, with more and more meetings being held to discuss brigade formation.
Finally, on 23 February 1961, a public meeting voted that a brigade be formed. Action was also requested to increase fire safety consciousness of residents and it was suggested that the Roads Board employees act as firefighters; attending fires when required. Prosecution of arsonists, and those that caused fires due to negligence, was also raised. Further, requests for equipment, including knapsacks, axes, fire rakes and beaters, hoses, nozzles and tanks, were made by the Chief Bushfire Control Officer (of the time) to the Wanneroo Roads Board as a result of the meeting. This equipment was ordered on 20 July 1961.
By 18 December 1961, five (5) Bush Fire Brigades were registered. Fire equipment was then distributed to the appropriate areas in 1962. However, various issues with fire appliances and funding were experienced; especially since the Government would not fund the provision and maintenance of equipment. The taxing of residents was subsequently explored as an option.
On 18 April 1962, the first Annual General Meeting of the Wanneroo Central Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was held. At this meeting the Brigade Officers were appointed, thus formally establishing the Brigade as a fully operational unit.
During the 1961/62 season, thousands of hours were spent fighting multiple fires, but the next year saw less incidents and less hours of fire suppression. Protective burning prove to be an important factor in the protection of the Wanneroo area and was completed by the forestry department and local council. However, issues continued over the lack of community will to comply and act appropriately. The prosecution of individuals engaging in illegal burning activities resulted in many residents being fined in 1962. Difficulties were also experienced in relation to communication between firefighting crews.
In 1963, it was suggested the council take over the firefighting responsibilities and that this would be advantageous in relation to the maintenance of 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 workers to fight fires (still as volunteers). New radios were purchased to resolve the communications issues. Consideration of, and future experimentation with water bombing aerial assault craft, was also a topic at the gathering.
On 29 November 1963, the brigade’s registration was cancelled; whilst in May of 1964 it was suggested that 4×4 vehicles be made available for firefighting purposes in the Wanneroo area. A meeting was held on 2 November 1964 to re-form a Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade run by local volunteers and 4×4 vehicles were acquired. General brigade equipment in December of 1965 thus consisted of a Chevrolet 4×4 and a Landrover, both with pump and hose reel. A heavier appliance in 1967 was also 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 run by the wives of traffic inspectors.
By 1970 , the Wanneroo Central, South, Yanchep, North and Diamond Farm brigades had been formed. A Toyota 4×4 mobile communications unit, a Bedford, a Ferguson tractor with plough, a Chevrolet, 3 Nissan Fast Attack Units, 4 Toyota Land Cruiser Fast Attack Units and a Nissan Control Unit made up the fleet in 1973. Earth moving equipment was also utilised for fires, as was a Thornycroft Nubian crash tender. In 1972/73, protective equipment was supplied to volunteers and the Thornycroft was listed as being due for replacement.
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 3,600L 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 models of Thornycroft. Our ‘Big Bertha’, however, was more of a tanker. It was able to hold 8,000L of water and did not have a roof mounted monitor. Instead, she was used as a water point for the brigade due to the lack of water and hydrants in the rural areas.
At the time of acquisition, Big Bertha was fitted with a special bull bar that had various blades fixed to it so that she could slice her way through airport fences to reach crash sites. She was built using British War Department vehicle plans, an example being the rear suspension which was upgraded through the department’s subsidy scheme. Thus, the Big Bertha was an appliance of strength and great fire suppression capabilities. The Brigade has since farewelled the old appliance, with the City of Wanneroo donating it to the Bushfire Volunteers Association Heritage Team in November 2019.
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 6 July 1986, the CALM (now PaW) 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 fire towers 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.
In 1997, the WA Fire and Rescue Service reported good teamwork between themselves, CALM and the VBFBs, and aerial water bombing was a key feature of the fire season. Helitacs and fixed wing water bombers became a major factor of fire suppression after 1997.
Ground crews were now equipped with 4×4 (early type) light tanker appliances and an array of heavier appliances. The Wanneroo Central 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 Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) looks after the sprawling urban area with it’s three (3) appliances (Urban Pumper, Light Tanker and Urban Tanker 2.4). Wangara FRS was also established, servicing the light industrial area in which it is still based in, as well as the local urban area. The rural urban interface (RUI) area was is now cared for by PaW, FRS and the VBFBs. The urban area’s hinterland, beyond the RUI, is divided into VBFB and PaW land. However, both agencies often work together to extinguish fires between, and within, each other’s patch.
The expansion of the urban area has led to Joondalup and Wangara FRS having a bigger region to service in a Northerly and Easterly direction. 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 McDermott Aviation Helitacs and other rotary air-craft, including Erikson Aircranes, make up the air fleet.
Fire and Rescue’s heavy vehicles (i.e. Urban Pumpers) and light appliances, PaW’s range of Tankers and slip-on units and the VBFB Light Tankers and tanker appliances, like the Wanneroo 4.4R, 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 during the bushfire season.
Marty, an Erikson Air-Crane helitac, was a feature of the 2011/2012 fire season, enhancing the strength of these services and making firefighters’ jobs slightly easier. An Air-crane has returned for each season there on, and in 2013/2014 McDermott Aviation Australia became the rotary contractor for WA, with its vast fleet of helitacs proving 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. This program has since been pulled back to one Fire Protection Officer performing an administrative role in mitigation management.
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.