From its humble beginnings on December 3, 1968 with only a handful of members, Bolwarra Largs Bush Fire Brigade has grown into one of the region’s most respected fire fighting units with a team of 32 and a solid local support base.
On Saturday the brigade will celebrate its 50th birthday with a special dinner back where it all began in Largs School of Arts.
The brigade was formed at a public meeting held in the school of arts’ kitchen following concerns held by Largs residents following a recent fire which seriously threatened the village.
The fire started at a dump located on Tocal Road and thanks to a strong westerly was licking the back fences of High Street properties in no time. The fire travelled so fast that cricketers on Largs Oval noticed it approaching and barely had time to leave the field before it raced across the oval.
The brigade’s first official meeting was held on December 16, convened by local residents Ald. Noel Unicomb and Charles Stocker. A committee was elected and comprised Ald Unicomb, Bruce Dark, Graham Eyb, William Knipe, Alec Crow, David Lantry and R Wallis. Field officers were also elected. Don Sharpe was the brigade’s first captain and his deputies were Kel Rumble, Noel Edwards, B Muddle and G Pottie.
Current brigade president and deputy captain Steve Searle said the only founding member who is still active in the brigade, Bruce Dark, will be a special guest at the dinner along with NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers and Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison.
Of the initial foundation members only two remain officially in the brigade - Bruce Dark (Life member) in a supportive role and Noel Edwards (Life Member) - retired. The next longest serving active members are Bob Shorten and Barry Pont who joined in 1971.
Mr Searle said the club started on a shoestring but today boasts some of the most sophisticated equipment including a relatively new fleet of vehicles and special tablets which allow fire fighters to plot fires in real time.
“We are now able to better inform the community if a fire is approaching them or their houses and we can keep them safe,” Mr Searle said.
Members who are fighting fires in Queensland are hoped to be able to return for Saturday night’s dinner.
“But it’s not just the fire fighters the dinner will be acknowledging, it’s their families who deserve just as much recognition,” Mr Searle said. “They are the ones who have to stay at home and look after the rest of the family and they need to be mentioned because they seldom receive any credit.”