Wamboin Community Association

History of the Wamboin Brigade


Below is a potted history of the Wamboin Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade. These details have been compiled by local resident and fire brigade member, Ian Coillet. Information has been drawn from available back copies of the Wamboin Community Association's newsletter, "The Whisper", with input from other members of the brigade. It is not a blow-by-blow record of all activities, events or incidents. The information is offered as a small contextual window into the activities of the brigade, its members and supporters, and the community the brigade seeks to protect. No guarantee is given as to the accuracy of the information. Corrections and further contributions are encouraged.

Details of each year/period of brigade operation

You can read the summarised history below or Click here to access details of each year/period.

Captains, Presidents, & Life Members

You can read the summarised history of previous captains, presidents, and life members.

First Residents

In 1981, the Canberra Country Estate as it was then known was officially named Wamboin. By 1983 there were 135 families living in the area known as Wamboin which had the highest growth rate in the then Yarrowlumla Shire. From a bush fire protection perspective the region was under the jurisdiction of the Sutton Bushfire Brigade, based at Sutton Village. The Sutton Brigade had been in existence since 1949. The first fire shed in the Wamboin area was constructed in the 1970s at Cooper Road — under the aegis of the Sutton Brigade. The facility was just large enough to accommodate two vehicles, the International and the Dodge, (admittedly they were not large vehicles) side by side with about another 6 metres at the far end for equipment. The shed's footprint can still be seen, located part way along the link between Cooper Road and the Kowen Forest.

A Brigade is Born

Due to increases in population it was decided that a local area brigade would be not only feasible but desirable. Several members of the Wamboin community already held senior positions in the Sutton Brigade and, by 1984, the Wamboin Bushfire Brigade became a fully autonomous entity with David Robertson as President, John Finn as Captain and Lofty Mason as Senior Deputy Captain.

First Significant Fire

The first real test for the brigade was in 1985 when a 4 km fire-front approached Wamboin from the west. The fire had begun on Mt Majura. Twenty-one sq kms were burnt. Twenty-seven houses were surrounded by fire. None was lost. To commemorate this fantastic outcome and to thank firefighters and others who contributed to the fire fighting effort the inaugural Fireman's Ball was held in the newly completed Wamboin Community Association (WCA) hall in Bingley Way, Wamboin. At this time the Operations Room for the Wamboin fire brigade was a construction site shed situated west of the WCA hall.

The Brigade Matures & Grows

By 1986 planning got underway in earnest for the construction of a new purpose built fire shed opposite the WCA hall. At this time one of the many spin-offs from the brigade occurred with the formation of the Wamboin Golf Club and the holding of the inaugural Wamboin Open Golf Championship. Today a tournament is held on this exacting and unusual course once a month and a good time is had by all participants.

With the support of council, and especially the local community who provided much needed dollars, labour and materials, plus a timely NSW Bicentennial Programme grant the 3 bay Bicentennial Fire Station was completed in 1988 — the Bicentennial Year. The new Fire Station was officially opened on 29 October 1988 by Mr Peter Cochran MP.

During the 1990's and early in the following decade the brigade regularly entered competition events where it excelled or performed strongly. By 1998 a new fuel store was completed and the need for a Support Crew identified. The Support Crew provide assistance to the operational crews and, in that way, release trained personnel for fire fighting duties. Another bad fire in March in the region of The Forest Road and Lake Road saw 300 personnel including from the surrounding shires tackling the blaze. Of these 60-70 were volunteers from Wamboin. Eight hundred hectares were involved and fifteen properties were directly threatened. Only one house (unoccupied) was lost.

January 2003 saw the Canberra fires and some of the worst fires experienced. Every available member of the Brigade was called in to assist either fighting the fires or providing support for the crews. Also in 2003, and as a reflection of the growth in population in the region, the brigade continued it's fundraising with an aim to secure sufficient funds for an extension to the Fire Station. As usual the brigade relied heavily on volunteer labour and materials and support from the community. A "Captains List" and "Giving Wall" was established to recognise businesses and individuals who contributed eligible funds, labour and/or materials toward the extension. Gidgee Estate Winery produced its "Bush Fire Red" along with a posh label. It was a great initiative and proved to be a very popular drop with profits from sales generously donated to the brigade.

By October 2004 the extension of the Fire Station was completed and a ceremony was held to mark appreciation of individuals, families, businesses, and public authorities that contributed materials, time and/or money towards the project. With the extension complete, the Fire Station was now a two-storey structure with its own radio communications, permanent weather station and training area in addition to the working bays downstairs to house the trucks, stores and equipment. During the year a Remembrance Grove was created to honour the memories of deceased fire fighters from the Wamboin Brigade.

A small number of people have been made Life members of the brigade because of their meritorious service above and beyond the call of duty. The first person to be made a Life member was Hank Berlee in recognition of his outstanding personal commitment to the construction of the Bicentennial Fire Station in 1988.

In recent years the brigade has been improving the fire-fighting capabilities around the Wamboin community hall and to increase water storage behind the fire station. It has installed a permanent pump at the dam behind the hall and underground high-pressure reticulation that will allow the brigade to pump water to the hall during an emergency if needed to combat a fire and to fill fire-fighting vehicles. Additional tanks have been installed behind the fire station to capture rainwater from each roof.

Expanding Roles & Responsibilities

The area for which the brigade is responsible has grown over time. It includes the rural residential localities of Wamboin, Bywong, Sutton Park and Eagle Hawk and comprises approximately 170 sq kms.

In 2008, as part of a policy to increase emphasis on community engagement, the Wamboin Brigade began its community education-related street meetings with residents. The informal two-hour programs involved several presentations by brigade members to help attendees prepare themselves and their properties for the fire season. Attendees also received a copy of the NSWRFS Farm Firewise series of booklets that provide a guide to assessing our properties and helping to develop an effective action plan in relation to a bush fire. In response to many enquiries, all residents in the brigade's area were invited to the fire station in December 2008, and again in February 2009, when approximately 300 people attended to learn more about getting themselves and their properties prepared for a bush fire.

Birthday Milestone

In December 2009, the brigade celebrated its 25th birthday.

Details of each year/period of brigade operation

You can read the summarised history below or Click here to access details of each year/period.