Early Days of the Empire Bay Bush Fire Brigade
Have you ever wondered about the early days of our Bushfire Brigade on Shelly Beach Road?
Bushfires were as common in the early days as they are now.
The Empire Bay brigade was formed in December 1951 with 17 members. Within 2 years the brigade members built the fire station which was officially opened in November 1953. It was the only dedicated Bush Fire Station in the Gosford Shire at the time.
By 1954, the brigade had collected enough funds to purchase a truck which they converted with a water tank, knapsack pumps and leather beaters (sheets of leather on the end of long poles) to stamp out the flames. During these early days there were always minor outbreaks, but it was the fire of December 1954 which threatened homes and property in the Bay that tested the Empire Bay brigade, burning 10 acres. Interestingly, the Gosford Times reported the fire was suspected of being started by a fallen power cable which “no doubt had been cut by a bullet from a rifle”. The threat forced several families to camp near the boat ramp for a few days. No homes were lost.
In the 1950’s, the brigade adopted the plan of placing knapsack sprays in the care of responsible persons at danger points and this policy paid dividends as several small fires were quickly extinguished without calling the brigade. This ‘decentralising’ of equipment, adopted by Empire Bay brigade, was instrumental in restricting damage to the district during the fire season.
Today, 70 years later, the Empire Bay/Bensville RFS Brigade remains a strong and proud feature of the community with 22 members. The Fire Station is on the original site, although a few upgrades have occurred. The brigade now has 2 fire trucks (each approx. $500k) fully equipped (financed by Gosford Council) and is involved with bush fires (near and far), motor vehicle accidents, house fires and storm damage.
By Robert Thompson
Sources: Gosford Times Dec 1953, Sept, Dec 1954
Caption: Possibly Empire Bay's first fire truck, the 1943 Chev Blitz, a converted ex war truck.