Veteran firefighters honoured

TALES of fighting fires with little more than basic resources and ingenuity flew thick and fast when the CFA handed out long-service medals to Wangoom and Mepunga members yesterday.

Prominent among the presentations was a 70-year life member medal to Wangoom CFA volunteer Lindsay Brodie, 88, described as a “local legend” in the area.

Lindsay and his brother Bill maintained the Wangoom CFA trucks up until about 15 years and brought to the role the automotive inventiveness that enabled them to run the same Model A Ford their parents had bought early last century as their only car.

That resourcefulness included turning another Model A Ford into their farm tractor by attaching it to the back end of a Bren gun carrier, giving it enough grunt to move along at 80 kilometres an hour on the road.

CFA district five operations officer Henry Barton said the Brodie brothers used to “pilfer” bits of equipment from the Warrnambool fire station to redesign the Wangoom fire trucks.

One of their innovations was the idea of a fire nozzle attached to the truck that could be operated by the driver as he was driving.

That invention has since been incorporated into modern CFA trucks, including the latest model handed over to the Wangoom brigade yesterday, which has a nozzle attached to the truck’s front.

Mr Brodie, now a resident at the Lyndoch Living residential aged care centre, was an active member of the brigade until about 10 years ago.

In presenting him with his medal yesterday, Premier Denis Napthine said it “was people like Mr Brodie who show a tireless commitment to helping out in their community which ensures our families are protected each and every fire season”. 

At Mepunga, 55-year service medal recipient Kelvin Boyle said one of the biggest technological improvements he brought in during his long stint with the brigade was getting a refrigerator in the Mepunga CFA shed.

Mr Boyle said the fridge had greatly improved the brigade’s response times by encouraging members to stay in the CFA shed on standby on sweltering total fire ban days instead of in their homes.

Before the cooler and its stockpile of cold water, members had been unwilling to stay in the tin shed on hot days because it was too uncomfortable.

Mr Boyle, 76, said although he was officially registered as a firefighter when he was 17 years old, he had been fighting fires since the age of 13.

At times he used branches off gum trees to beat out flames, at other times sacks or knapsacks with hand pumps.

He fought the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires in the south-west when temperatures were so hot the fuel in fire trucks frequently vaporised, causing them to stall.

The Ash Wednesday fire came to about 100 metres from the back fence of his Naringal property.

Mr Boyle said that despite the latest advances, firefighters would always struggle against fires the scale of Ash Wednesday.

ehimmelreich@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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