On December 21 1934, the inaugural meeting was held, of what was known as the Burnside Hills Fire Fighting Fund, under the leadership of Councillor J.A. Harper.
The first gathering considered the fire dangers of the Burnside Council area which was, in those days, orchards and paddocks. As a result of this meeting, the Burnside Council area was split into 4 areas, the Stonyfell Group, Waterfall Gully group, Greenhill Road group and the Mt. Barker Road group. Each group sought donations from local land owners for equipment such as rakes, buckets, shovels and knapsacks. This equipment was housed in sheds built, or on land owners properties. The first vehicle on record available for firefighting purposes was a water tanker from Dunstan Quarries (now known as Quarry Industries). Throughout the 1930’s, many outbreaks of fires were recorded in the Burnside area, in particular, the Mt. Osmond and Waterfall Gully regions.
On December 16 1936, the name of the organisation was changed to the Burnside Hills Firefighting Association, which remained until the name changed to the Burnside Emergency Service in 1957.
1939 saw devastating fires widespread across South Australia, and the Mt. Osmond, Waterfall Gully and Eagle on the Hill areas were badly effected. The 1940’s saw the outbreak of war, and this put considerable strain on the service as the men went off to war, petrol rationing came in for vehicles and it was thought that 40 gallons would be sufficient to be distributed amongst the groups. Also burning off was thought to be desirable to reduce the risk of fire in the event of incendiary bombs being dropped during an air raid.
The 1950’s saw a greater structuring of the service with increased equipment levels and more public education. The brigade purchased its first trailer pump during this time. Records show the fire history in the Burnside Hills was fairly consistent up until this time two large fires occurred in the area in 1950 and in 1955. Each year showed fires started in similar areas, however, this was largely due to the topography, fuel loadings and wind patterns.
The 1960’s saw many changes in the brigade; an air raid siren was purchased to call members to fire calls, the brigade also purchased its first Land Rover appliance equipped with water tank and pumps. A shed adjoining the Council yard was used to house the Land Rover and equipment. 1976 saw the Brigade purchase their first HF radios for communications. Eventually all appliances had these radios installed, and a base radio was set up in the shed. 1967 also saw the brigade purchase its first heavy pumper by way of an International appliance. The Mayoress Mrs. G. Bolton formed the first Women’s Auxillary of the brigade in 1967, and in their first year they were kept busy with numerous fires they were called to cater for.
On May 4 1968, the then Mayor Mr. W Langman Esq., opened the present Fire Station. It was considered at the time to be the most modern Station in the state, also the Director of the Emergency Fire Service (E.F.S.) Mr. F.L. Kerr commissioned the new International appliance. Burnside E.F.S. at this time was a 2 appliance strong brigade with a strong membership and the latest in technology. Also, at this time, the first F.A.C.U. Phone Alarm System was installed enabling members to receive fire calls in their homes.
The 1970’s opened with considerable action, with a major fire in the Skye/Greenhill Area. This fire burnt to the Burnside Hills fringes, and it burnt for 34 hours and involved approximately 1,000 volunteers from far and wide. The brigade purchased a new cab chassis for their International appliance in 1970. This overcame braking and power problems experienced with the former cab chassis. 1970 also saw the brigade compete in state competitions for the first time and they put in a creditable performance for their first effort.
April 1972 saw another large fire in the Montacute/Skye area, the fire burnt 7 square miles and once again the fringes of Burnside were threatened. 1972 saw the Brigade purchase a Toyota Landcruiser, with members spending several hundred man hours in the build up of this appliance. This enabled the Brigade to access rough terrain in the Burnside Hills more readily. The early 70’s saw women taking a more active role in training, basic firemanship and in the operation of the radio room. Burnside was one of the first brigades in the state to have women in an active role.
1977 saw the Brigade purchase Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus (CABA) for the first time, with members undertaking training at the Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) Headquarters. 1977 saw the formation of the new Country Fire Services (CFS) Board and a new CFS Act, also the CFS had its first Headquarters built with a 24 hour communications centre, with backup and support for brigades around the state. 1979 saw the end of an era with the retirement of the then Director Mr F.L. Kerr, and Mr Lloyd Johns being appointed Director.
For Burnside CFS, the 1980’s also heralded a period of great change, probably the greatest than in all the years gone before. The decade started with the first Ash Wednesday fires on February 20 1980, which caused devastation through the Stirling area. Burnside was actively involved in this fire, and also had cause to lay to rest the Brigade’s Land Drover appliance which finally gave up the ghost after many years of service.
1982 saw the Brigade purchase the present Volvo appliance, under much controversy, since it was considered to be state of the art in fire appliances, some thought it was “too good for volunteers”, however this appliance proved its worth ten times over the following year when the Brigade was in the front line of the devastating fires of Ash Wednesday. February 16 1983, in the Burnside Hills, millions of dollars damage at Mt. Osmond and Greenhill occurred. The Brigade worked almost non stop for 2 weeks after the fires, and hosted brigades from all over the state in their efforts to help our community. The Council, Auxillary and local services all banded together to provide relief services to those effected by the fire.
After the coroner’s inquiry into the Ash Wednesday fires, the CFS had to restructure itself and make improvements in communications, incident control, hazard reduction, equipment and infrastructure. Burnside CFS also saw great change at this time, as a result of the Ash Wednesday fires. The Burnside community gave overwhelming support to the Brigade. The result was the building of a new crew room and kitchen onto the station, most of which was funded by public donation.
1985 saw the Brigade build a new communications room with the expertise for this coming from our own members. The Brigade also purchased its first paging system enabling members to receive emergency calls within a large radius. 1985 also saw the Brigade involved in the early beginnings of mutual aid with the MFS, due to a fire at the Torrens Island Power Station. This became the ongoing precedent for mutual aid arrangements with the MFS for future large incidents.
During 1986, the Brigade was asked to house and staff the State Hazardous Chemical Vehicle by CFS Headquarters. This has seen members travel all over the state in the control and clean up of hazardous chemical spills.
1987 saw the beginning of task forces to all parts of the state, the first being to the Flinders Ranges area. This being the first of many through out the late 80’s in the quest for CFS mutual aid to areas where local resources have been taxed to the limit and relief crews are required. 1989 saw a new CFS Act with more comprehensive guidelines for fire suppression and incident management. It also saw the Brigade involved in a 10 day commitment in MFS mutual aid when a grain ship at Pt. Adelaide caught fire and taxed both Fire Services to the limit. Volunteer members worked shifts around the clock looking after the city and suburbs during this time.
The beginning of the 90’s began with a tragedy for the Brigade. Firefighter Peter Stacy was killed in our water tanker in an accident at Clarendon whilst fighting a fire in the Scott Creek area. The Brigade rallied after this tragedy and developed a memorial garden at the station. In Peter’s memory, and with Council assistance, the Brigade set about building a new water tanker to replace the one destroyed in the accident.
1991 saw the Brigade replace the ageing Toyota appliance with a CFS Board approved 4×4 appliance. 1991 also saw the Brigade aligned to the Stirling CFS group. For a short time, the Brigade formed a group with the Athelstone and Mt. Osmond. However, the Board felt that we should be part of a larger group for administration and operational reasons. Since that time, the Brigade has formed a good working relationship with the Stirling group.
1992 saw the Brigade in another role. With record rainfall around the state, we were called on to deal with local flooding and landslides and flood control at Two Wells and Langhorne Creek areas just before Christmas 1992. This event saw the Brigade cover all aspects of emergency work from bushfires, Vehicle Accident Rescue, Dangerous Substance Spillages, Mutual Aid and now Flood Control.
1994, in the year of our 60th Anniversary, has now seen in our most unprecedented role yet. The Brigade sent two appliances and 18 firefighters in 2 shifts to the disasterous bushfires in New South Wales. I am sure that those who were involved with the Brigades humble beginnings 60 years ago were here today, they would not have dreamed this possible that the Brigade has come so far, indeed survived at all.
Throughout the years, the Brigade has enjoyed strong community support and although Burnside has become urbanised, this has created a far greater risk with more life and property to protect. As the Country Fire Service has grown, the imaginary boundaries are coming down with help coming from all over Australia, now if the need should arise and a greater awareness for more quick effective responses to minimise damage from all Natural and Man Made Disasters.
Many people have made significant contributions to the history and character of the Brigade, Mr Graham Thiem being the father of the Burnside CFS. He held the position of District Supervisor from 1948 to his retirement in 1985, made probably the greatest single contribution to the Brigade. Living in the district for most of his life gave invaluable service in his knowledge over the years. The late Mr John Lea held the position of Deputy Supervisor from 1963 until 1981. Mr. John Nolan, Assistant Supervisor and subsequent Captain from 1965 until 1983.
Other Captains that have served with the Burnside CFS:
Mr David Sanders (1984 – 1986)
Mr Peter Sanders (1986 – 1989)
Mr George Adler (1989 – 1991)
Mr Peter Sanders (1991 – 1996)
Mr Craig Holt (1996 – 2010)
Mr David Wilson (2010 – present)
Many others have made contributions from a management and administrative level, their time and expertise to make this Brigade what it is today. At the time of writing this, the Brigade has a strong commitment to training and upgrading of equipment and expertise with a 40 strong membership. Many thanks must go to the Burnside Council for continued support and the many councillors and staff who have assisted us over the years, and to the community of Burnside who continues to support us in a very positive way.
Written by Julie Lovett