This year, the Eaglehawk Fire Brigade celebrates 150 years of dedicated service to the community. Students from ESC had the opportunity to speak with CFA Captain Kylie and Community Safety Officer Ian Shelton to learn about the brigade’s history.

In the “olden days,” when a fire broke out, a bell would sound from the bell tower, signaling the volunteers to spring into action. The firefighting equipment, including a cart with a hose reel, would be harnessed to horses, and they would quickly navigate the unpaved dirt roads to reach the fire.

The brigade purchased its first horse in July 1895 for 16 Pounds ($32), with the harness costing 14 Pounds ($28). Another horse owned by the brigade was named “Swannie” in honor of Assistant Station Keeper Swanwick, who tragically lost his life when he was accidentally thrown from the Bendigo reel while responding to a fire.

The last horse to serve in the brigade was named Jack. Whenever the alarm sounded, Jack would back himself into the reel. Today, visitors can still see the original pulleys in the engine bay that were used to open the main doors, allowing Jack to gallop down the street towards the fire. The big green doors would then open, and Jack would be on his way. Jack, a dark bay horse, retired at the age of 22 and was relocated to a farm in Dingee. The previous Station Keeper before Jack’s retirement in 1928 was Jimmy King.

Before the horses were introduced, the firefighters would run with the hand reel, sometimes covering more than a mile to reach a fire. Today, the hand reel is used in running competitions that test the fitness of the running team. The introduction of horses in 1928, followed by motor reels and pumpers, allowed the firefighters to reach fires more swiftly and efficiently.

Presently, the Eaglehawk CFA is equipped with a Pumper, a Tanker, and a Field Command Vehicle (FCV) to transport firefighters and equipment to fires quickly. The Eaglehawk CFA operates as an all-volunteer brigade, with both men and women working together as firefighters.

This article was created with the assistance of Ian Shelton, providing valuable insights into the history and operations of the Eaglehawk Fire Brigade.


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