The Heritage Fleet
Many Bush Fire Brigades have in the past been responsible for the purchase and maintenance of their fire fighting vehicles. Some Brigades were fortunate to have support from their local Shires and Councils, but this was not always the case. This resulted in a mixed match of vehicles of different ages, colours, water carrying capacity and Makes of vehicles. With the introduction of the Emergency Services Levy in 2003 and the provision of standardised vehicles to Bush Fire Brigades, it was recognised that much of the history of the Bush Fire Brigades was being disposed of as part of this replacement program. Efforts were made with the assistance of the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades to obtain different types of vehicles that defined the Bush Fire Service throughout Western Australia over the years. Eight different categories were established to classify vehicles:
Purpose Built Fire Unit
This category relates to those vehicles that were bought new and built as dedicated fire trucks. These were mainly in the outer metropolitan area where local councils had the rate base to support their Bush Fire Brigades, or in regional areas where Shires were proactive in fire prevention. They were generally well equipped for the job at hand.
“Recycled” Fire Trucks
Many Bush Fire Brigades and Shires could not afford the cost of new fire units and therefore purchased vehicles that were decommissioned from other fire services, such as the WA Fire Brigades (later Fire and Rescue Service) and Forests Department (later known as CALM and DEC). Some Brigades even imported used fire trucks from the eastern states. The process of ‘recycling’ fire units between services continued even after the ESL was introduced, where trucks replaced in the Fire and Rescue Service and Dept of Environment and Conservation (DEC) were refurbished and allocated to Bush Fire Brigades.
These simple but effective fire units consisted of a tank, pump and hose reel set with minimal other fire fighting equipment stowage. They were designed with a crew platform to allow for fire fighters to work off the back of the truck. Crew protection from radiant heat was optional.
Light Duty/Light Tanker/Fast Attack Units
The light tanker/ fast attack unit has been the backbone for many Bush Fire Brigades around the State. This was due to them being cost efficient for local governments and Brigades to purchase, as well as meeting the needs of the service, by being able to get in to tight spots and difficult areas.
Slip-on Fire Units
The first subsidy offered by the State Government was for the purchase of 2000 -3000 litre slip on fire units. However, Brigades or local councils still had to find a truck to mount the unit on to.
Bush Fires Board Standardised and Subsidised Fire Units
The Bush Fires Board first attempt at standardising a design of fire trucks was with the introduction of the Bush Fires Board Fire Unit Subsidy Scheme. The Board’s Transport Officer was tasked with the responsibility of attending government disposals and auctions to purchase suitable 4WD cab chassis to be turned into fire units. They were then sold to local shires at a 50 % subsidy.
Converted WWII Trucks
Many trucks that were surplus after the war effort were put into service as Bush Fire Brigade tankers. Some were still in service up until the mid to late 1980’s
Communication vehicles have had several different names over the years, including Forward Control Points, Field Control Units, Communications Units and more recently Incident Control Vehicles. The vehicle type varied considerably, from caravans, work vans, small and large buses and trucks.
The Group has been successful to date in obtaining the following vehicles to date for preservation.
1966 International ex Army AACO
Many of these Internationals were converted into fire trucks throughout Australia, after being retired by the Australian Army. This truck was the second truck built under the Bush Fires Board subsidy scheme and for the Quindanning Brigade in Boddington Shire to cover the Quindanning settlement and surrounds. One of the few Bush Fire Brigade trucks with a “dead” layflat hose reel, and the first time that 'Stortz' couplings were used on a Bush Fire Brigade tanker.
1966 C1300 International Tanker
This International tanker, carrying approx. 1000 litres is rare in that it was purchased brand new by the then Shire of Armadale for the Roleystone Bush Fire Brigade. It was later transferred to the Westfield Bush Fire Brigade as a Brigade owned tanker, meaning that the Brigade had to pay for its fuel and maintenance costs. In 1987 this Unit was being used for a controlled burn along Westfield Road when a car hit and fatally injured one of the Brigade’s members, Mr John Giacomelli. After this incident the truck then underwent a major refit of emergency beacons, including grill and rear mounted flashing lights, which was unusual for Bush Fire Brigade vehicles at the time. The Westfield Brigade sold the truck in 1994 after the Armadale Council directed that only Council owned fire units were permitted. The vehicle was then purchased by the Shire of Bridgetown – Greenbushes for the Greenbushes Bush Fire Brigade as a ‘temporary appliance’. It was part of the Greenbushes BFB fleet until 2003, when it was relocated to the Yornup Bush Fire Brigade. It was replaced with a 2.4 Broadacre in 2006, 40 years after being put into service.
This vehicle was restored in 2017 back to the Westfield Bush Fire Brigade design by members of the Group with support from the City of Armadale and South West Fire Units
1983 Isuzu Tanker—built in 1992
This truck is an example of the first fire units that the State Government subsidised for Bush Fire Brigades. Commencing its life as a Westrail gang truck, it was purchased by the Bush Fires Board and sent to Bell Fire to be converted into a bush fire tanker. Designed with “off the shelf” parts for easy repairs out in the field, the vehicle carries 2700 litres of water and has a Stalker semi hi lift pump powered by a Holden motor. Stationed originally with the Dunsborough Bush Fire Brigade near Busselton, it was later used by the Kirup Bush Fire Brigade until 2007.
1971 Bedford Tanker
This vehicle is typical of the “recycled” fire units that served in Bush Fire Brigades. This vehicle started off with the Forests Department, and still shows the Forestry Dept orange and black colour scheme. It also retained much of the original fittings such as the CALM hermaphrodite couplings. It was used for many years by the Mt Lindsay Bush Fire Brigade in Denmark before being replaced in 2006. This vehicle has been preserved with the support of the Forests Products Commission and South West Fire Units.
1982 Light Duty/Fast Attack/Light Tanker Unit
The backbone of many Bush Fire Brigades in WA, these vehicles were the most popular vehicle in Bush Fire Brigades. They carried anywhere from 500-1000 litres of water. This vehicle started off with the WA Fire Brigades, before being sold off and purchased by the Clackline – Muresk Bush Fire Brigade in 1991. It was later transferred to the Irishtown Bush Fire Brigade also in Northam Shire, where it was replaced in 2009. It has a tank capacity of 500 litres and was originally powered by a Honda/Stalker 1 ½ inch semi hi lift pump, the unit now has a Honda/Davey single impeller pump.
1983 Mercedes 911 Tanker
This truck started life as a Telecom Maintenance truck, before being converted into a fire tanker for the Shire of York. It is typical of many Bush Fire Brigade trucks used out in the Wheatbelt area, consisting of a tank, pump and hose reels and space for the crew to stand and fight the fire. Simple yet effective.