Village brigade celebrates 70 years of fighting fires

RFS members celebrate Mallanganee’s 70 years.

Susanna Freymark

For 70 years, the Mallanganee Rural Fire Brigade has been serving the community.

RFS members and neighbouring RFS units celebrated at a dinner at Mallanganee Memorial Hall last night, Saturday, October 21.

NSW RFS district manager Daniel Ainsworth was at the dinner to give out some awards.

He gave an award posthumously to John Holmes who died at the Bean Creek fire front on October 15. Mavis Goodlad accepted the Commissioner’s Commendation Certificate on behalf of her partner, John.

John Holmes: senior deputy captain Northern Rivers, north eastern senior deputy captain recognised for his diligent service and unwavering commitment to the Mallanganee Rural Fire Brigade and community for more than 50 years.

Mavis was also awarded a Commissioner’s Commendation Certificate for her service to the Mallanganee RFS for more than 37 years.

Mallanganee captain Neville O’Malley accepted a plaque for the unit.

Mallanganee RFS members with the 70th anniversary cake.

He gave a rundown of the brigade’s history.

During the winter of 1958, it was decided to hold a public meeting to form a bushfire brigade. The first members elected were captain W. Arthur Brown, S.W McLean, JJ Pollard, K Holmes, W Fuhrmann and C Rolly Alford. Public support for the brigade was good but equipment was poor with most fires being fought with buckets, wet bags and green bushes.

In 1986, the brigade enlisted local women to get their truck licence. Men were working on properties and the women would drive the truck to the fire and the men would meet them there. In 1986–1987, the brigade area of responsibility was reduced to what it is today when Tabulam, Mummulgum and Theresa Creek brigades were formed. Theresa Creek Brigade no longer exists.

Former Mallanganee RFS members with Captain Neville O’Malley. From left, Rodney Allen, Sherrill Allen, Denise Worth, Debbie Fitzhenry and Linda McPherson.

In 1997, the bushfire council became the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Current Mallanganee RFS members have travelled far to fight fires – from the Victorian border to over the Queensland border, from Coonabarabran to the coast fighting fires in 2022. Ten members were awarded the National Emergency medal for their efforts in the 2019-20 Black Summer fires.

“This saw us on the fire line for weeks from Drake to Yamba,” Neville said.

“The last 70 years has seen many changes most of all in equipment which is among the best in the world.

“Our vehicles are now safe and becoming safer with cab protection spray bars, cab curtains and fire blankets. Our uniforms continue to improve with lightweight clothing and helmets with face visors.”

Bonalbo RFS captain Dave Tucker gave a speech.

Communications have drastically improved with radios everywhere, Neville said.

“All our members who attend a fire are given a radio so we all talk to each other without yelling or using a carrier pigeon,” he said.

Today, Mallanganee RFS has 13 active members and six reserve members.

Two new members are about to start their training, Neville said.

State MP Janelle Saffin and Kyogle deputy mayor Tom Cooper and councillor Danielle Mulholland attended the dinner.

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