Sid de Burgh was a 19-year-old kid when he and eleven others attended the first meeting of the Nilgen Volunteer Bushfire Brigade in 1969.
Fifty years later he had the honour of opening the brigade’s new facilities, which will be utilised by the team that is now comprised of more than forty members.
Sid has seen a lot of changes in his time, but despite the obvious developments in fire-fighting technology and equipment over the last fifty-years, he reckons they had a pretty good handle on it back in the day!
“We were a lot more innovative back in those times. You’d go along with your own vehicle and trailers and tanks – the first years it was less emphasis on water and more on tractors and ploughs,” he said.
“You’d push lines out through the bush and try and back burn from that line. You’d be out there for days sometimes.”
Hazard reduction burns were key to keeping the area safe, something that was acknowledged earlier this month as a bushfire threatened homes on Casserly Way in Lancelin. Mitigation burning conducted in June this year was credited as immensely reducing the fire risk to these homes.
It is a technique that Sid has observed declining over the decades and a reason for this he believes is fear of litigation.
“In those days it was less regulated, you could burn the bush more often. Nowadays people are afraid that they might burn a neighbour’s fence and end up in court.”
Sid would also prefer to take his trusty Land Rover out to a fire front than the four-wheel-drives of today, with all their bells and whistles!
“I think the stuff is more complicated to use and the vehicles aren’t as good off road as they used to be – four-wheel drives have become heavier over the last fifty years. There’s more to go wrong,” he laughs.
The new facilities at Nilgen will be vital for attracting new members to the brigade. Relative newcomers include current secretary Jennifer French and Sarah Horgan, who are making quite an impact with the team.
“It’s always been a low population area here and over the years the demographics have changed. We are older!” said Sid. “Jen and Sarah are a breath of fresh air, it’s great to have some younger people come in to the area and really want to do something – they are great those two!”
If you would like more information on the Nilgen VBFB you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.