THE COUNTRY FIRE AUTHORITY (C.F.A.)
by Graham Kirk (M. Fullard)
Our Guest Speaker Fire Officer Graham Kirk, was welcomed to our May meeting by our President, Mr. Jim Hood, who also thanked our archivist, Mrs. Marjorie Wood, for presenting a display of photographs of the Traralgon Fire Brigade.
The Traralgon Brigade was formed in 1888 after a site in Hotham Street was donated for meetings. At this time, fires were fought by chains of men with buckets of water. It was sometimes found necessary for nearby buildings to be pulled down to contain fires. Insurance companies contributed money to buy fire-fighting equipment which was to be used on their own insured property. Many fires were started by kerosene lamps and open fires.
On Black Friday, 13th January, 1939, over 780 people died in fires that devastated country Victoria. It seemed that the whole State was ablaze, as forests, farms, mills, houses, halls and schools were burnt. A Royal Commission found that there were few links in communications and equipment, and recommended that the Country Fire Authority be established to protect country Victoria.
The C.F.A. was formed in 1944 and every member was a volunteer; in 1969, 5 permanent members were appointed. Over 2,500,000 Victorians and their properties are protected by the C.F.A. whose area includes all of rural Victoria (excepting State Forests and National Parks), provincial cities and towns, and a large proportion of Metropolitan Melbourne.
The large range of activities of the Authority include fire-fighting, road accidents, rescue, chemical accidents and risk management. Talks are given to school children who are taught to "Stop Drop and Crawl". They must crawl low as smoke can be toxic and unconsciousness can occur very quickly, and they must leave the building very quickly.
PHOTO: Traralgon Fire Brigade about 1927 with their Dodge motorized fire engine. L to R: J. Templeton, C. Webb, F. Bates, J.W. Mayze (driver), J. Lahore - from the Society's archives
About 70% to 80% of the $90,000,000 funding still comes from premiums on insurance policies (everyone's responsibility to their insurance company is just to ring the fire brigade). The Victorian Government contributes about 23%. Without volunteers, the costs would be much higher, probably by million of dollars. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade has no volunteers.
The C.F.A has over 2,000 vehicles, including pumping appliances and tankers to carry water. The Alpine Brigades use tracks for Mr. Buller and Mt. Hotham.
PHOTO: Fire Brigade, 1915, L to R back row; E.J. Grubb, Thos. Gilbert. Seated; J. Cameron, J. King, J. Wright - from the Society's archives
All members are paged when there is a fire call; they report to the Station or control centre (within 3 or 4 minutes at Traralgon). Mr. Kirk advised that if there is a fire, we should immediately dial 000; do not tell a long story but listen to the questions and answer them. Give your address, name, phone number, and nearest cross street. Get out of the building quickly and contact your neighbors. If your Brigade is committed elsewhere, a nearby brigade will attend. Two brigades attend big risks, and three brigades to hospitals.
Electric blankets cause many fires. These should be checked regularly for safety and should be turned off after warming the bed. If doors have a dead lock, always leave a key in the lock. Extinguishers and fire blankets can be bought from the Fire Brigade. It is now law that all houses have a smoke detector, and this should be sited near the sleeping areas.
The C.F.A. had a powerful community base and, in remote areas, is the centre of local activities. There are 15,000 volunteers in 1226 rural and urban brigades. In Traralgon, there are 50 men and women volunteers. It is a sobering thought that Victoria is one of the most bushfire prone places on earth.
Graham answered clearly the many question from members and advised them about their individual safety precautions, should a firs occur at or near their residence.
Jim Hood thanked Graham for his interesting and thoughtful talk and presented him with a Society memento.