Words by Graeme Legge (Life Member)
Emerald Fire Brigade was established on the 14th March 1941 as Emerald Bush Fire Brigade.
Ever since then, able-bodied members dropped what they were doing and came to help wherever trouble existed. Emeralds' area of responsiblity is approximately thirty-five square kilometres.
At first, its modest supply of equipment was stored in a garage at the butchers shop near the corner of Monbulk Road. Private trucks were used to transport men, knapsacks and a few basic hand-tools from there to the rising column of smoke.
The first fire truck was an ex-army 15cwt Dodge truck issued in 1945. It was equipped with a square water tank and a hand pump. Crew seating was on two bench seats, one on either side of the truck. A large board on the front identified the fire truck with the letters 'EFB' outlined with reflectors.
The original fire station was constructed of brick around 1945. The fire truck was then proudly housed in this attractive accomodation with its title 'Emerald Fire Brigade' worked in concrete above the two front doors. The new station, with its clinker brick front was one of only a few Brigade owned stations in the whole state.
In 1966, the station contained the fire truck and a Land Rover pumper, three radio sets, 40 knapsacks, 6 lengths of hose, helmets, rake hoes and other hand tools. In that year, consideration was given as to how the introduction of automatic telephones would impact upon administration.
The original rectangular station had its communication room and meeting room added in the 1960's. This new facility saw the incorporation of an inside toilet. It's been a long time since the brigade membership would fit into this room, let alone have sufficent space to seat them. This room had kitchen facilities added later and benches at which radio operators could work and transcribe messages. Telephonists and map-readers also utlilised this room, which had a siren/telephone alarm cabinet at one end.
But fire trucks became larger over time and thus outgrew the fire station. Meeting and training rooms were seen to be an advantage, so, the construction of a separate engine room became the next project, followed by the conversion of the original fire station to the present day meeting/training room.
The deputy chairman of the CFA, Mr Colin Diffey, officially opened the new station in 1976. Chief Officer C.H. Howe was also given a warm welcome to Emerald on this, his first official attendance at Emerald.
The Brigade progressed to an Austin tanker on 3rd November 1966 (CFA issue), which replaced the ex-army vehicle. It served the Brigade for many years despite its limitations on steep slopes. It came with a motor on its pump, provisions for knapsacks and cupboards for hose fittings, branches and other tools.
In recognition of the steep slopes up which to drive and pump water, the Brigade purchased its own short-wheel base Land Rover, an ex-Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity scheme vehicle with a pump capacity of 350 gallons per minute. It was fitted to work from mains supply.
One of the largest fires in the Emerald district occurred on the 2nd January 1955 when approximately 400 hectares of farming and residential land was burned. Eleven brigades, a wireless unit and 200 men extinguished the fire despite the extremely high wind and temperatures.
In more recent times, the Brigade offers its service beyond its usual boundaries. One significant deployment came in 1997, Emerald members fought fires in Upper Ferntree Gully in the area of Glassford Avenue (further details can be found on the 1997 Dandenongs Fires page).
Emerald members formed part of various Strike Teams during the Victorias worst bushfire disaster, Black Saturday in 2009. More information can be found on the 2009 Black Saturday history page.
In 2010, the Brigade finally outgrew its station of 69 years and moved into a brand new purpose built facility just down the road. The station doubles as a Local Command Facility to managing
Level 1 incidents.
Members look forward to continuing their proud service to the community as the brigade progresses in its ongoing protection of the township and surrounding areas.