The FCV and Bush Fire Brigades


If you look through FCV Annual Reports prior to 1944 you will often see reference to the FCV's involvement with Bush Fire Brigades. How did that come about?

In 1937 the then Chairman of the FCV, AV Galbraith, published an article about the FCV's involvement with these Brigades, which was stimulated by the impacts of the 1926 fires. The extracts below are from his article as published in the Empire Forestry Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1 (July 1937)

Inauguration of Movement

Following on the calamitous forest fires of 1926, the Victorian Forests Commission, having obtained the co-operation of the Country Fire Brigades Board and the Lands and Police Departments, undertook an extensive campaign to stimulate public interest and to encourage the formation of fire-fighting units. Delegations to all country districts were arranged and such success attended these efforts that the number of fire-fighting units or brigades increased by leaps and bounds. By 1931, 220 units had been organized in country centres throughout the State and at the present time the effective strength of the movement is 320 brigades.

In order that the efforts of independent units might be co-ordinated and methods of fire-fighting standardized, an Association of Bush Fire Brigades was formed in 1926. In recognition of the invaluable work of the brigades, the Forests Commission provides the secretariat of the Association, paying all incidental expenses connected therewith.

Present Status

The movement now embraces approximately 13,000 members and it must be emphasized that the organization is wholly a voluntary one. Each member gives his service without any hint of obligation. He pledges himself to assist in fire-fighting whenever called upon and in the majority of cases each brigade arranges for the provisions of its own equipment, fire-fighting appliances and transport. Absolutely no governmental financial assistance is provided with the exception that where a brigade's district includes or adjoins forest reserves the Forests Commission donates portion of the equipment in return for the brigade's assistance in suppressing fires which may be burning in or threatening Crown reserves. The spirit of mutual self-help is thereby engendered and encouraged.

However, the establishment of brigades was not always without critics.

"It is unfortunate that in a few instances the formation of brigades was strongly opposed, grazing interests being strong and not in favour of any movement likley to interfere with their annual burn-off." {weblink Handbook of Forestry in Victoria (Low res)}Handbook of Forestry In Victoria{/weblink} - FCV (1928)

FCV Involvement Ends

"The Commission is satisfied with its efforts in building up a virile organization of 768 brigades with approximately 35,000 members and over £100,000 worth of equipment, and it desires to record its great appreciation of the valuable services that have been given voluntarily, year after year, by the bush fire brigades in the preservation of the State forests. It is, therefore, with regret that our official connexion with this excellent organization has been concluded." (FCV Annual Report - 1944/45)