Our volunteers have attended 88 calls in 2021.  In 2020 we attended 136 calls.


Whittlesea Fire Brigade History:

 This history of the Whittlesea Fire Brigade is compiled from  the
 following sources:
 1. Book “History of the Whittlesea Fire Brigade” by ex Brigade Captain
 John McPhee

2. Extracts from the Whittlesea Urban and Rural Fire Brigade’s Minutes
     compiled 24th May 1987

3. Photo collection supplied by Brigade Treasurer Rodney Clark.


Fire has been a part of the landscape in the Whittlesea area for tens of thousands of years. The traditional owners of this area, the Wurundjeri Willum Clan, knew the land intimately and were experts in the use of fire. They used it for warmth and for cooking. They also knew when to set fire to grass land and bush land to produce a light burn which encouraged the sort of vegetation regrowth they wanted. Some species of vegetation needed fire to regerminate. The Clan knew that starting fires at the right time would result in lots of green grass and vegetation that would attract the animals they depended on for food. Periodic fires also kept the landscape ‘neat’. Major Mitchell in his exploration of the Western District of Victoria described it as almost well-kept parkland. He called it Australia Felix. In 1803 Lieutenant Governor David Collins and his group tried to found a settlement in Port Phillip Bay at Sullivans Bay at Sorrento. Among their many problems was fire, which burned tents and valuable supplies and some of the surrounding countryside. The settlement failed after several months. Collins then moved his group to Van Diemen’s Land. In 1835 a group of men met in a hotel in Hobart, they were led by Batman and Faulkner, this group of about twenty-five formed the Port Phillip Association. Their purpose was to found a settlement on the banks of the Yarra River. The settlement named after a British Prime Minister was Melbourne. They all wanted to come to the Port Philip District, as Victoria was known then, to take up land and run sheep. The British textile industry was paying big money for fine wool from our eastern colonies. One member of the Port Phillip Association settled in Whittlesea. His name was George Sherwin.

Many other settlers quickly followed. Most of these new settlers had English, Scottish or Irish backgrounds although there were some locally born settlers too. (Leaving aside the change of land ownership issue). The new settlers had a very different view of the land than the Wurundjeri Willum Clan. They were unskilled in land management in the Aboriginal traditional sense. The new settlers were unaware of fire behaviour in the Mediterranean Climate area that they had so recently occupied. The settlers wanted to start grazing and farming. They put up buildings and cut roads through the bush. Much of the red gum forest in the Whittlesea area was felled to provide timber for the building boom in Melbourne. More grass meant more feed for livestock. Traditional burning practices stopped.

In his book on the Whittlesea Fire Brigade Ex Brigade Captain John McPhee wrote, ‘A fire in March 1846 along the Plenty River caused severe losses to the settlers in our area, destroying huts, crops and farm implements, less than five years later, on the 6th February 1851 Black Thursday settlers were overrun by perhaps the largest fire ever in the state.’ In the years leading up to 1851 it was said that the grass was up to a man’s knee on horseback. Local natives had warned ‘plenty fires by and by’ but the settlers thought it was a threat, not a warning. All of Plenty Valley was burnt out including Whittlesea from fires on Mount Disappointment.

The 1851 bushfires were particularly fatal for women and children. Museums Victoria have in their collection a letter written by Rebecca Greaves in which she describes the 1851 bushfire along the Plenty River. ‘Rebecca mentions the 1851 Black Thursday bushfire, the largest fire ever recorded in Victoria since settlement:
‘they are so anxious to get it cleared a little round the house for fear of the bush fires, the heat here is so great in summer that the grass takes fire and it sometimes runs for forty or fifty miles burning trees, houses and cattle as when it once begins all attempts to escape are in vain. The fire last summer burned many mothers and children and all the cattle on the station where the fire raged. I myself saw two gentlemen that the heat of the sun, as they were coming down the bush, set fire to their coats they had on their backs. So, from that I leave you to guess how powerful the sun is here. The fire last summer got over the rivers so you see even water will not stay its rage’.

Large state wide fires occurred in 1898, 1905, 1913-14 and 1926. The fires of February 1926 burnt all of Mount Disappointment, Humevale, Strathewan, and Kinglake. The 1926 fires led to the forming of the Whittlesea Brigade.

                                                                                   1926 Fires – 1944:
The fires of February 1926 burnt all of Mount Disappointment, Humevale, Strathewan, and Kinglake. The next big fires were in 1939. The 1926 fires led to the forming of the Whittlesea & District Bush
Fire Brigade.” After the fires of 1926 there was an appeal to raise funds to help the bushfire victims in Humevale. After funds were distributed to people in need there was Five Pounds Two Shillings and Six Pence left over.

On the 17th December 1926 a meeting was held to discuss the idea of forming a fire brigade. Forty people attended and became the first members of the Whittlesea & District Bush Fire Brigade.
The voting resulted in; R. E. Dawson, a Humevale vineyard owner becoming President.
 Jack McDonald, Humevale farmer Captain of the Brigade. John Crawford, Whittlesea policeman became Lieutenant. Tom Hurrey, farmer from Yan Yean was Foreman. Rev. MacKeinzie, Minister Whittlesea Presbyterian Church, was the Secretary. The funds left over from the Humevale bushfire appeal were used to start the Brigade account. Brigade funds were meagre to say the least. There were several working bees and volunteers made beaters. Fire beaters are basically a broom stick with canvas or hessian pieces attached to one end. Fire fighters would walk up to the flames and
 try to beat the flames out. All equipment was stored at the Police Station. In the event of a fire, the Church bell was rung. The first equipment purchase was six watering cans and an axe. The brigade hoped to buy spray pumps. A list was made of local vehicles and their owners who were willing
 to be used when the brigade needed them.

In December 1927 two 100-gallon tanks were purchased and in 1931 Old milk cans were bituminised for water carting. The PMG agreed not to charge for fire calls. (PMG Post Master General, what we had before Telstra, Australia Post). The Wall St Stock Market crash happened in 1929. This resulted in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Money was scarce. There was little money for the Brigade during the 1930s. World War 2 started 3rd September 1939. It ended in August 1945.During that time many men and women from the district were “off at the war”. The big news for the Brigade in 1942 was that a Ford 4 x 4 two-ton short wheel base tanker was put into service. In 1945 this was
replaced by a Chevrolet two-ton tanker.

In 1944 legislation was passed in State Parliament forming the Country Fire Authority. October 1944 the Brigade got its first Fire Station. It was built by Mr J Morris in the grounds of the Whittlesea Court House. It was built of bush poles and car cases. Building materials were in short supply
during WW2. In November 1944, 90 members and 10 casuals registered with the Whittlesea Rural Fire Brigade at the cost of one shilling each. This followed a restructure of fire services as a result of the CFA legislation. In December 1946 the brigade purchased a GMH Trailer from Preston Motors for the price 49 Pounds 10 Shillings. The Whittlesea & District Bush Fire Brigade formed in 1926 and
covered a large area. This organisation lasted until 1945. After the CFA legislation was passed in 1944 new brigades were formed in the areas further away from Whittlesea and the Whittlesea Rural Fire Brigade which was registered with the Country Fire Authority on the 27th December 1945, had a smaller area of responsibility nearer to Whittlesea township.

On the 11th October 1948 the Whittlesea Urban Brigade was formed. Whittlesea actually had two Fire Brigades from 1948 to 1994. One was the Rural Brigade. The other was the Urban Brigade. They worked very well together and often members of one were also members of the other. The 5th September 1994 saw the Rural (1926) and the Urban brigades amalgamated to form the Whittlesea Fire Brigade. All Whittlesea Fire Brigade members are unpaid volunteers.

                                                                                  EDEN PARK:

The Whittlesea Fire Brigade has a shed and a truck in Sixth Ave, Eden Park at the Glenburnie Rd end. The first Brigade firefighting truck at Eden Park was an Austin Double Cab. In January 1973 an Austin Double Cab (ex PMG) was purchased by the Whittlesea Fire Brigade from its own funds at a cost
of $250 and stored at Mr R Olsen’s shed in Sixth Avenue, Eden Park.

One of the Eden Park residents, Philip Rowe, built up a privately owned trailer unit with a Furphy tank and a pump. This worked well and it was used to put out a number of fires in Eden Park. The fire brigade shed in Sixth Ave. was built by brigade members during a number of working bees. Beside the shed are two concrete water tanks, these allow the refilling of fire trucks at the shed. The Whittlesea Council helped with establishing water supply to the shed and the Council also paid for the tanks and concrete for the shed floor and driveway.

In September 1982, the Whittlesea Fire Brigade decided to buy a more modern replacement fire truck for Eden Park. The brigade bought a HINO 171 cab and chassis from their own funds. This was the first diesel truck purchased by any CFA brigade. Before this all-fire trucks and fire pumps were petrol. They worked well until they were used on very hot days. Sometimes the petrol would vaporise in the heat and the truck engine or the fire pump would stop working, diesel engines keep going even when very hot.

The Whittlesea Fire Brigade, at the time of the HINO 171 purchase, had amongst its members a fire vehicle designer and a draughtsman. The Brigade also had many members who were tradesmen. The main building of the truck body was done by Samoht Engineering in Plenty. The actual fitting out of the truck was done in then Captain John McPhee’s shed by brigade volunteers. There were many “donated” pieces of equipment on the truck. The truck was painted by Phillip Rowe.

The Brigade Minutes of November 1982 has the following entry. The new Brigade Owned Truck arrived and the Ladies Axillary loaned the Brigade $3000 for its purchase. The body work cost $4000.There were 7 railway line fires which burnt into the Clarke Road area and the Wandong/Mt Disappointment fire started. Plans were made for Whittlesea to be blacked out but a wind change prevented this and the fire went on to Flowerdale.

Whittlesea Brigade Treasurer, Rodney Clarke remembers another fire that started in Glenburnie Road due to electricity lines swaying together in strong wind. It burnt all the way to Grant’s Road before it could be stopped. The Minutes of the Special Meeting of Members of the Eden Park Resident Ratepayers Association on 8th December 2004 records two motions moved by members.
The first was that the Association be wound up. Carried unanimously. The second motion, moved by Noel Speakman, was that the assets of the Eden Park Resident Ratepayers Association, namely its bank balance, be donated to the Whittlesea Fire Brigade only to be used to renew and upgrade the Brigades own equipment stored at the Eden Park fire shed. This motion was carried unanimously. The Eden Park truck is used in all Whittlesea Fire brigade emergency calls and training exercises, it is serviced and maintained in accordance with CFA maintenance schedules. Annually before every Summer fire season all Brigade members have to do their Emergency Drill in each Brigade vehicle and this includes the Eden Park Tanker.

-Written by A. Camilleri
- Edited by: S Smith


Legetøj og BørnetøjTurtle