"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

Fire Equipment - Introduction

If you look at The Hand of Man, produced by the FCV following the 1939 fires, you will see the rudimentary nature of the equipment available to those facing the fires. In 1939 an incomplete document prepared by CJ Irvine also gives some insight into the level of equipment available at this time.

During the 1950s the FCV was developing and evaluating fire equipment at its Fire Protection Workshop in North Altona. The program was led by Assistant Fire Protection Officer ED (Ted) Gill and Fire Equipment Officer, James (Jim) Hennessy. These were early days and the many pumps introduced into the FCV manufactured either locally or overseas at that time have now long gone and been replaced with more efficient and less cumbersome water delivery systems. The attached document by ED Gill provides some insight into the fire equipment that was developed and introduced during that time.

Certainly, from the 1950s, there were rapid advances in the equipment available to Victorian forest firefighters at all levels. This blog is designed to provide an insight into those developments. There are some articles in the blog below that cover major equipment, but there were also many other innovations that are worth noting. These Fire Equipment Notes (42MB) describe many of these innovations.




Barry (Rocky) Marsden
Dec 2009
Photo: N Fraser

Large Fire Tankers

Barry Marsden (bio)

The two videos connected through this page were produced by Rawdon Sthradher. Rawdon was originally a photographer and video producer with the Soil Conservation Authority and then CF&L in all its various guises for 12 years. He freelanced for the next 20 years, and in that time still did quite a bit of work for Fire Management, Fisheries and other sections of the Department.

This article describes the main tanker versions between 1950 and 2014.

1950: Blitz Tanker 4x4

Purchased from the RAAF in Amberley Queensland after the second World War.
Exact capacity of water tank and make of pump unknown. A low-down hand-operated back-up pump and tank-mounted hose reel are visible in the photo.

Mike Cecil (website) has provided the following information about the vehicle:

The 'Blitz' is a Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) vehicle, Cab 13 type, built by Ford. The Canadian Department of National Defence model number is F60L, which translates as F for Ford, 60 being 60cwt rated carrying-capacity under all conditions; ie 3 tons, and L being Long wheel base, which was 158.25 inches. The Ford model number is C0180F. The engine was a conventionally-aspirated 239 cubic inch side valve V8 petrol engine, the gear box a four-speed forward, one reverse, and the transfer box a two-speed selectable high-low range. Four wheel drive was selected in the transfer case. The vehicle pictured is a Ford F60L without a winch. It has the Australian 1944 pattern cab with demountable canvas doors. The rear military bodywork has been replaced with a custom-built tanker body which is not military, so there is no telling what the original bodywork may have been. The caption states that it was purchased from the RAAF. This is most probably not strictly correct: the purchase would have been from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission (CDC) who handled all disposals in the immediate post-war period. It may have been ex-RAAF and sold from Amberley, but would have been written off and handed to the CDC for the actual disposal. There were two manufacturers of CMPs: Ford and Chevrolet. There were thousands and thousands purchased or supplied under the Canadian Mutual Aid Agreement (CMA) during WW2, and used by all three services plus some supplied to the US Forces operating in Australia.


Purchased from the RAAF in Amberley,
Queensland after WW2.

Mid-Range Tankers

Barry Marsden (bio)

As it had done since the early 1970s, the North Altona Fire Equipment Development Centre continued to operate, through the 1990s, as an innovative R&D centre. In the mid-1990s the Centre developed slip-on fire-fighting modules for use with the Mitsubishi Canter 4x4, and the Isuzu NPS 300, 4x4 tray vehicles. The fire-fighting modules were assembled with three different tank capacities: 1000 litre, 1200 litre and 1500 litre. The configuration of each vehicle, whether a single or twin cab, or whether a crane was installed, would impact on the water-carrying capacity. The 1000 litre capacity slip-on module was developed for the smaller Mitsubishi Canter when fitted with a crane. (Fig 1) The 1200 litre module was developed for the Isuzu NPS 300 with a crane, and the 1500 litre for the twin cab Isuzu NPS 300 without a crane.

Small Tankers
From Water Cart to Multi-Function Firefighting Tool

Barry Marsden (bio)

A US business woman, Margaret Heffernan, is recorded as believing that, ‘…for good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, (and) debate….’

Well everything has a beginning, and that includes the current day 400 litre slip-on fire-fighting module. The concept started off as a basic water cart and slowly developed into a vital firefighting tool that is, these days, fitted to every one tonne fire vehicle operated by forest fire crews across Victoria.

Forest Fire Camp Developments

B Marsden (bio)

In 1955, Mark Stump records "Our campsite on the crest of the ridge became quite strung out as each man selected a tree to provide stability from the downslope side. One could lie "along the slope" or preferably "across the slope" in reasonable comfort as long as there was a decent sized tree to rest against, thus ensuring you would still be there at daylight."

As smoke billows on the horizon and the ‘call to duty’ messages fly its ‘action stations’ for forest firefighters. Through long hot summers crews remain prepared and ready to meet the challenge of stopping a developing inferno before forests are lost, and rural properties face destruction. A fire may run its course for several days, or sometimes for weeks or months. Fire crews and their support staff will need to be fed and provided with sleeping quarters and ablutions facilities, often in some of the most remote parts of the State.

This is an account of the many changes that have been introduced in Victoria to provide improved conditions for fire crews at base camps. Many of the changes were incremental in nature, but in 2000 the Department of Sustainability and Environment, with OHS in mind, directed a team to investigate current trends for providing meals and accommodation for fire crews and, as a consequence, a modular and containerised system was introduced, as you will see in each section of the article.




Transport by container trailer
Source: B Marsden