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Brigade History

The Upper Woronora River Bushfire Brigade was first formed in 1954 by then Group Captain Ray Watchorn QFSM to protect residences, general store, post office, churches and scout camps situated on the foreshores of the upper Woronora River. 

Equipped with knapsack sprays, portable pumps canvas hose and hand tools and other equipment, the brigade was based out of an  “ANNEX” shed, up river from Cathedral Rock With no road access the brigade operated from their private boats to carry equipment to and gain access to fires.   Additionally a Fire Hose Box was installed at the Cathedral Rock Store on the eastern side of the river to provide protection for residents on the opposite side of the river to the annex.

In mid 1956 Sutherland Council commissioned that a timber barge be constructed, by boat builders Binley & Roberts. The wooden barge was built out of marine plywood and with dimensions of 18-0.ft x app 6-0.ft beam. (5.5Mts x 1.8Mts), and powered by 18HP two stroke Outboard Marine Motor.

In 1966 a decision was made thru the district FCO office and council to reform the Upper Woronora brigade thru community engagement.  Len Carter AFSM.EFO.BSc. (Group Captain. (Rtd) led the community engagement thru the Woronora Progress Association.  At a public meeting on the 23rd of April 1967 the brigade was reformed and renamed Woronora Bushfire Brigade with a charter to provide bushfire protection to the whole of the Woronora area.

While the brigade continued to maintain the “Annex” and Hose Box, it constructed a fire fire station, which was built in garage style, at  the eastern end of Prince Edward Park at the brigade expense. 

The wooden barge was refitted and relocated opposite the brigades new fire station.

Shortly after a 12 ft aluminum “john boat” added to the fleet housed within the new fire station.  This vessel became the brigade’s second fire boat, reducing the operational reliance on private vessels

The Woronora Bush Fire Brigade, while having a permanent fire station, held brigade meetings at members houses, or at the Woronora Life Saving Club, also located in Prince Edward Park.

In September 1976, the Brigade moved to it's current location off Menai Road on the western side of Woronora River Bridge. A double bay, brick fire station, with boat launching ramps, was built by the Sutherland Shire Council and designated Station 18 (See Station and Appliance numbering scheme).

In the early days there were few members and they had to supply their own overalls and much of their fire fighting equipment. This consisted of little more than knapsack sprays, hand tools, and a wooden barge capable of carrying a small crew and one portable pump. The members had to use their own boats to transfer additional crews and equipment to a fire. (First boat on trailer)).

A 3.7 metre John Boat with a 9.5hp motor was purchased in late 1968 with funds Brigade members had raised. This boat was equipped with a small 6hp pump and 25mm hose reel. The Woronora River valley has difficult terrain to fight fires in, with step hills and rocky outcrops to negotiate. It soon became apparent that small pumps and hose reels were ineffective in these conditions, and a larger, more efficient craft was required. Additional funds were raised and at auctions in July and September 1977, the Brigade purchased an ex-army 5.5 metre Feather Craft hull and 40hp outboard motor. This vessel was extensively overhauled, repainted, and fitted out; and was used extensively during the devastating fires of November 1977, together with members private vessels.

By the late 1980's, the Feather Craft, which was build during the war, was now showing its age; and fire crews would get drenched with water when travelling at any speed in choppy conditions. In 1988 the brigade had raised enough funds to purchase a replacement boat, a 6.3 metre Stacer which was fitted out by Brigade members over the 1987 christmas period. It is powered by twin 90Hp Evinrude motors and is capable of 30 knots with a full crew. The main fire fighting pump is a Godiva GP1600, which can deliver 1600 lpm at 8.5 bar (350 gpm at 125 psi) and there is a smaller 6hp portable pump used mainly for relay pumping on long, uphill hose lays.

In mid 1978 Council decided to provide a larger, faster fire fighting vessel at their expense. On Brigade advise, a 7.3 metre DeHavilland Trojan boat was selected and fitted with twin 85hp outboard motors and was capable of ferrying large crews at speeds in excess of 30 knots. This vessel was specifically designed and manufactured for fire fighting, and was latter repowered with twin 90hp outboard motors and a new Godiva GP1600 pump. After 15 years of sterling service, this boat was replaced in late 1993 by a larger boat build by Yamba Welding, which served well during the January 1994 Royal National Park and Como-Janalli fires.

To carry crews and meals to the fire ground, a smaller, lighter vessel was required. In 1981 the Rotary Club of Sutherland Civic donated to the Brigade a four metre aluminium boat powered by a 25hp outboard motor. This vessel could also be utilised to carry extra hose and pumps to large fires, where the main response vessels cannot be removed from the field. In 1986 that boat was replaced with a slightly bigger DeHavilland vessel fitted with a 50hp outboard motor, with funds donated by Rotary and the Brigade. In late 1995, this vessel was replaced with a larger boat built by Yamba Welding with funds donated by the CFMEU Union as part of the state wide fund raising effort after the destructive fires of January 1994.

A four-wheel drive vehicle was needed for crew transport and towing boats. The Brigade obtained two unserviceable Land Rovers from other Brigades and used the parts to build one early model Series II Land Rover, which was used extensively until it was replaced in 1985 by a newer Land Rover previously used by the Loftus Brigade. This vehicle was latter replaced in 1986 with a Toyota Hilux previously used by the Deputy Fire Control Officer. In 1997, we turned full circle and had our Hilux replaced by a Land Rover Defender 110, and in 2003 a Land Rover Defender Extreme.