IT was the fire at the Flying Buck Hotel in Liebig Street that did it.
The blaze on the morning of Sunday, March 1, 1863, burnt the hotel’s stables and other buildings at the rear of the hotel and threatened to destroy not only one of Warrnambool’s watering holes but adjacent buildings.
After several earlier attempts had been made to form a fire brigade in the pioneering settlement that Warrnambool was in the late 19th century, the fire at the Flying Buck prompted decisive action.
On Friday, March 6, 1863, a public meeting was held that decided to form a Warrnambool volunteer fire brigade with 25 volunteers.
That public meeting to begin the brigade’s 150 years of serving Warrnambool was celebrated last night with another public meeting at the Whalers Hotel.
The Whalers Hotel is across the road from where the Flying Buck Hotel was located.
Brigade members were in full-dress uniform at last night’s meeting that included a reading of the minutes of the 1863 meeting that led to the brigade’s formation.
Brigade secretary Bryan Wills gave an account of the brigade’s history and its senior volunteer officer Wayne Rooke spoke about its present activities.
David Ferguson, project officer for the anniversary celebrations, said the meeting showed the brigade was still responding to Warrnambool’s needs.
“We go to about 600 calls a year and do a wide range of community activities such as visiting kindergartens to talk to children about fire safety,” he said.
The brigade is a mix of paid and volunteer firemen and its recent callouts have included those to the Minhamite fire on Monday and to the Victoria Valley complex fire in the Grampians last month.
At the Grampians fire, Warrnambool brigade members not only did firefighting, but management of the staging area and other co-ordination roles.
Mr Ferguson said paid firefighters joined the brigade in 1961 because of the growing demands on the brigade.
It presently comprises 17 staff and 50 volunteers, who have a variety of roles and responsibilities.
Other celebrations to mark the brigade’s 150th are an exhibition of brigade memorabilia that will run until March 17 at the Warrnambool Art Gallery.
An anniversary dinner is also planned for May and a book about the brigade’s history is being compiled.
The anniversary will also be marked when the brigade is given the honour of marching behind the CFA’s chief officer Ewan Ferguson in this Saturday night’s torchlight procession of brigades for the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) Urban Championships in Warrnambool this weekend.
The torchlight procession will start at 8.30pm from the southern end of Parkers’ car park on to Koroit Street, north along Liebig Street to the Lava Street corner, along Lava Street into Kepler, then along Koroit Street to Liebig Street and south to the Civic Green.
The Warrnambool Art Gallery will be open on the Saturday evening about 8pm for people to see the brigade’s exhibition.