Brigade History 1880 –1942


16 August - the premises known as the Brighton Hotel at Tathra, and which were unoccupied, were totally destroyed by fire last night. It was constructed mostly of pine and burned furiously. in a few minutes it was consumed. The tenant was to take possession today. The circumstances connected with the fire may possibly be inquired into before the coroner.  (Sydney Morning Herald, 1880) .


15 January - There is intense excitement over the fires at Bega, crowds of people from all parts assisting to extinguish it. Mr. Gee, jun., so far, has lost 1,500 bushels of wheat. The fire is now going towards Cockatoo, but if the wind continues as at present, no further damage will be done. At Bega, since Sunday, the weather is most unbearably warm, with hot scorching winds, caused by numerous bush fires raging all over the district. At 4 o'clock on Monday the wind changed to south east, and brought smoke in great clouds from the coast. The sun was completely obscured, nothing being visible at a distance of 600 yards. On Tuesday the weather was slightly improved, and during the night, numerous fires were seen on the ridges, and they appeared to be raging just as bad as ever this morning. Some years ago the same thing occurred and taught a lesson to settlers, who lave been careful to clear all the timber from the vicinity of their dwellings. At Nelson fearful havoc has been played with the grass and fencing. The chief sufferers are William Rlitchie and John Brown. The latter gentleman had a very hard struggle to save his residence. He got upon the roof, and continuously drenched it with water.At Tonja (sic) the fire is burning fiercely, and all along to Tathra. Black range is alight, and Bega Reserve has not escaped. A constable started on Monday towards Merinuglo (sic), to collect information for the electoral roll, but was stopped by the fire At the last named place Mr. Wren had a great deal of grain burnt. These fires have been burning in some places for nearly a month, and this, with the heat, has caused vegetation to wither up. The whole district is looking very badly, and should the heat and fires continue much longer, water will get short.  (Sydney Telegraph, Jan 1884)


24 November  - Bush fires have been burning during the week in many parts of the district. Thousands of acres of grass have been burnt. the town (Bega) this morning was enveloped in smoke. Altogether it has been the worst day ever experienced. The steamer Bega missed Montague Island yesterday, and just managed to make Tathra. The SS Oonah had to lay off Eden for some hours on account of the dense smoke, which is all along the coast. (Sydney Morning Herald, 1888


Monday, March 9. The residence of Mr. J. Howard, at Tathra, was totally destroyed by fire during the absence of the family. Nothing was saved.  (Evening News, Sydney


Following the fire which destroyed John Dunn's store in August 1903, a public meeting was held to discuss the possibility of forming a Volunteer Fire Brigade for Candelo. (The Southern Star, Bega - Wednesday 12 August 1903)


24 August  - On Monday evening last a public meeting was held at the School of Arts for the purpose of discussing various matters in connection with the Brigade and the selection of officers. The following gentlemen were present: Messrs Jno Pike (Chair), A Young, A Manns, H.G. Hammond, T. Pike, D. Williams, G. Smith, T. Robertson, F. Morrow and C.H. Brooks. The minutes of the previous meeting were read and adopted. A letter was read stating that in all probability the fire engine would be there some time next month. A letter was also read from the secretary of the Paddington Fire Brigade, wherein some sound advice was given in connection with the working of a young brigade.As the trustees of the Recreation Ground had granted permission for a room to be built on the grounds in which to put the engine, Messrs. Jas. Pike, Young, Morrow, Manns and Brooks were appointed a sub-committee to meet the trustees and select the area on which to build.The election of officers was then proceeded with: Mr A Young was unanimously elected captain, Mr F. Morrow engineer, and Mr. Brooks Hon. Secretary. Three lieutenants were nominated, Messrs. Manns, Pike and Smith and a ballot had to be taken for the different positions, with the result that Mr. Manns was elected first lieutenant, Jas. Pike second and G. Smith third.Rules and regulations were then drawn up and the secretary was instructed to write to Sydney and procure Shaw's book on fire brigades for the use of the brigade  (Candelo and Eden Union - Wednesday 31 August 1904)


18  January  - Bega district had a rough time from bush fires. At Wyndham two lives were lost - a settler named Milliner and his child.  (Northern Star, Lismore 1905)






MANY HEROIC RESCUES   The Sydney Morning Herald 6 Jan 1909

EDEN, Tuesday

Owing to the continued dry weather the bush fires, which for some time have been raging within a few miles of Eden, have alarmingly developed in extent and intensity. Stafford's farm at Bellbird Hill was yesterday swept. At about midday the fire came with awful suddenness over the hill on the north in one huge sheet of flame which traveling with fearful rapidity destroyed in the space of a few minutes the dwelling, contents, orchard, fences, barns, and growing crops. The place was left a smouldering ruin. The air was all the morning hazy with smoke, and Mr. Stafford says 10 minutes before there was no sign of the approaching fire. The roar of the oncoming fire was terrible and was plainly heard in Eden. The heat at times was almost suffocating. Mr. Stafford, with his wife and baby, barely effected a timely escape by crossing the main road and following the track easterly to Leonard's Island, on the seacoast.

Fire swept through Mr. Hopkins's farm from which Mr. Mark Walker, wife, and four children narrowly escaped by also crossing the main road and following it down the ridge, on which ashes and hot logs were still burning. They were almost suffocated by the smoke and heat, and were discovered later in the day nearly exhausted, the children crying for water. Mrs. Walker saved her baby by imparting moisture with her own tongue to its parched lips. Several other places in peril were last night saved by fires started to meet the approaching flames.

The fires swept through the farms of Messrs. Williams, Kelly, Love, and Newlyn, destroying the buildings, fences, and crops, and leaving the grazing paddocks destitute of grass. The losses to farmers in this locality are very serious. The Boyd Town Estate was invaded by a terrible fire which played havoc with the fencing and crops. The fire raged round the church erected by Mr. Ben Boyd, and consumed the shingles of the roof. Mr. Wright's Nullica farm was only just saved by the great exertion of the fire-fighting brigade.

Splendid rain set in early this morning, and continued with brief intervals throughout the day. About an inch fell, and it is still raining. The rain has relieved the entire district from distressful conditions

BUSH FIRES AT EDEN   The Bega Budget (NSW : 1905 - 1921) 6 Jan 1909

Sunday, 3rd January, will be a day long remembered by residents of Eden and adjoining districts. The heat was intense, and the town and ocean were enveloped with dense smoke, which made it difficult for one to breathe. Out Bell Bird way, about three miles from town, the fire came along fanned by a heavy gale of wind, and swept the country for about two miles in width. Direct in the course of the fire in this locality were the houses of Messrs. Stafford, Mark Walker, F. Cox, T. Phillips, P. McGovern, and W. Scanes.

 Mr. Stafford's sons, and Mr. Walker were away from home fishing, distant about three miles. The first knowledge of danger was when Mr. Stafford and wife heard a loud noise like thunder. They immediately rushed out of the house and saw that the fire was coming in a red mass, then distant about half a mile Mrs. Stafford picked up a few articles of clothing and a little child, and Mr. Stafford, in the meantime, ran and drew a dray and sulky out of a shed, then both ran from the house, and across the main road, which passes the house about 100 yards below. The far side of the road had been burnt some few weeks ago, and by making in this direction they knew they would be safe. Mr. and Mrs. Stafford had barely got across to the burnt ground when the fire swept up to their home which was quickly a mass of flames, and in a short space of time nothing remained of the house but the brick chimney.

 Below the Stafford's, on the roadside, was the residence of Mr. Mark Walker; at this place, only Mrs. Walker and her sister, (aged 12 years), were at home. When they saw the fire coming they started to make to the Stafford's house, along the main road, but the flames, leaping across, prevented them from doing so. Mrs. Walker then turned and ran through a dense jungle on to the burnt ground. As the unfortunate woman struggled along with the little children, the heat and smoke quickly exhausted them, and after traversing about a mile and a half the woman fell exhausted.

 As the fire was raging in all its fury, Mr. W. T. Hall, who was returning home to Eden, from Bega, came along. Previous to this, Mr. Hall had met Mr. and Mrs. Small, of Pambula, and they informed him that they were going to Eden, but had to return owing to the fire. Mr. Hall then became anxious, knowing that fires were in close to the town, and he proceeded on to try and make his way through, but when within half a mile of the Stafford's residence he discovered a fire coming with great fury towards the road, the smoke and heat being almost unbearable. The flames, a little later, swept across the road and behind the buggy, thus cutting off all chance of returning that way. When Mr. Hall reached the Stafford's, the house was then a mass of flames, and on both sides of the road, flames were roaring, and the trees overhead all alight. Mr. Hall raced his horse along, and several times he was almost smothered with the heat and smoke. A bag half filled with chaff on the back of the buggy caught alight, and was thrown off after racing about a mile.

 Mr. Hall arrived at the foot of the hill, and found that at the Walker's residence the fire had passed over some time before the one higher up. Here he found Mr. Walker lamenting over his wife and children, already mentioned as being at home alone. Mr. Hall released his horse from the trap, and then endeavored to get along the road through the fire to the residence of Mr. Cox, the nearest neighbour, to see if the woman and children had made that way. Finding that they were not there, he then returned to Walker's, and they then began to look for tracks. A few were found from the house, towards where there had been a dense green jungle, but which now was completely consumed. Grave fears were then entertained for the safety of the woman and children, as it was imagined that they had taken refuge in the green scrub. After searching for a couple of hours, Mr. Hall proceeded to Eden, and informed the police who at once went to the spot, also a large number of the residents of the town.

On arrival at the scene, Mrs. Walker had then been found by the husband, and a Mr. W. Johnson, in an unconscious condition, The children seemed little the worse for their adventure, but Mrs. Walker is suffering from shock and exhaustion. Mr. Hall saw the big fire at Wyndham, just four years ago, and says that Sunday was such another day as that which caused so much damage. Reports from Nethercote state that the country there was swept by fire on Sunday, but so far no particulars have been received. The road from Eden to Towamba is reported to be blocked with fallen timber. The residences of all the others herein mentioned were not affected by the fire, owing to the wind changing. At night fires were made to check the original fires progress.


11 October - A fire occurred in the five room residence of Mrs. Whiteley senr., Tathra Rd. The building and all the contents, including piano, furniture, sewing machine and money being completely destroyed. There was no insurance. Mrs Whiteley, who is 87, was rescued from the burning building by her daughter.  (Sydney Morning Herald, 1923)


30 December  - Beare's Sawmill at Tanja was destroyed by fire last night. Only the engine and boiler were saved. The mill was insured. ( Sydney Morning Herald, 1925)


COUNTRY SWEPT BY FIRE   The Farmer and Settler December 17 1926

Devastating Flames Leave Trail of Destruction

Devastating fires— the worst. In the history of New South Wales— swept over the greater part, of the wheat growing portions of the State last week-end, carrying death and destruction, and leaving a trail of desolated homesteads, charred remains of valuable sheep, horses and cattle, and a blackened waste...

Eden's Red Sunday

The country around Eden on the South Coast was swept by a big fire on Sunday and three homes were burnt. Car loads of men went out to fight the fire, but the flames beat them back and the places they went to save were destroyed. In the afternoon the wind changed and the men were compelled to return home to save their own homes and the fire swept right into tho town. Just' outside Eden, Mrs. Stone and an infant escaped just in time, the mother being exhausted when she reached a place of safety.



A message from Eden states that the terrifying invasion by fire will be remembered as an occasion comparable with, a similar occurrence on the memorable Black Thursday of 1883, when the existence of the town was similarly threatened by an insweeping bush fire that wrought considerable destruction. Old hands say however that the onrush of Friday's conflagration was the most awful and terrifying in their experience.

 In the morning bands of fire fighters organised by the forestry officer and shire council endeavoured, but ineffectually, to check the progress of the fire some miles from Eden. In the afternoon an already high north-westerly increased to the velocity of gale, and the fire spread with frightful rapidity at Nullica. Mr. Frank Kelly's house was saved by a narrow margin, but Mr. Havard's home was lost at Saltwater Creek three miles from Eden. Pelsley's homestead and Legge's sawmill were burned but Leggge's house was saved. The fire rapidly advanced on the settlements nearer the town, destroying Messres. Nicholson's and Boller's houses but the home of the Illawarra Company's agent (Mr Downton) was saved after an exhaustive fight.

 The sweep of fire through the last two miles of forest into the town occupied but a few minutes. From nearby hills was seen a wall of leaping flames irresistibly advancing at frightful speed. It was a magnificent but fearsome sight.

 Isolated homes on the western side of the town were saved as the result of the defenders fighting, the flames until midnight. The business portion of the town narrowly escaped. The flames crossed a street parallel with the main street, and were only conquered at close quarters in the premises at the rear of the business buildings, the igniting of any one of which would have involved the destruction of all.

 Some women and children were taken to the sea beach, where they remained till the control of the fire rendered their return home possible. For a time the pilot station was in danger owing to falling fragments of burning leaves and bark. So far as is known the wharf, which several times became ignited, is not seriously damaged. 

It is stated that the State pine plantations at East Boyd had a narrow escape from a fire which swept about 20 acres before being headed off by the forestry gangs. Several fire-fighters are quite blind today from the effect on their eyes of the acrid bushfire smoke. At one homestead valuable house dogs met a pitiable fate. They were tied up by chains, and burnt to death. By a fire that raged at Kiah on Sunday. Dorren's store and contents were totally destroyed.

Centres surrounding reported extensive losses of fencing, grass, and growing wattles. At Kiah River the Roman Catholic Church was destroyed. The Nethercote dairying district was badly swept. Homesteads destroyed include those of Messrs. Caustin, Parker and Barnes. Relief committees are being organised...

Fires have been raging from Bega to Eden, particularly at Wolumla and on to Merimbula and at Eden. At Merimbula the fire swept right to the edge of the village. (The Sydney Morning Herald 14 Dec 1926)


SYDNEY, Monday.

Mr. Lawson and his family had narrow escapes from death when their home in the Eden district caught fire. A cow locked in a shed was roasted alive. All roads leading to Eden are impassable owing to fallen timber. (Daily Advertiser 14 Dec 1926)



SYDNEY Tuesday.

Residents on the outskirts of Eden are recovering from the trying experiences of "Red Friday". Flames came on the town like waves, and the smoke was so dense that it blotted out the sunlight making it necessary to light lamps in business houses and homes. Shops in the main street caught alight many times from the showers of cinders, but the band of workers succeeded on each occasion in checking the outbreaks.

With the fire came a fierce gale, which tore off the balcony of the Bank of New South Wales and lifted it into the middle of the street. A double chimney crashed through the balcony of Great Southern Hotel. Just when it looked as if the town would be wiped out the wind veered to the south-west and the shops were saved.

On the outskirts of the town a number of settlers took refuge from the flames on an area of ploughed ground and to prevent women and children from collapsing owing, to the terrific heat, men had to pour water on to them. At one orchard two dogs on a chain in a yard were roasted.

At Nethercote, eight miles from Eden many farmers were wiped out. Many of the men who were fighting the fires had their clothing burnt and their arms and hands severely scorched. Timber through which the flames swept contained trees 60 and 70 feet high, and these were burnt bare. (Riverine Herald, 15 December 1926)


Help arrived too late to save 30,000 hectares of bushland ravaged by fire on Tuesday night just south of Eden. The fire, believed to have started in a pile of bark involved in a burn-off in May, burnt out about half Timbillica State Forest, almost all Nadgee State Forest and most of Nadgee Nature Reserve.

The coordinator of the fire-fighting effort in the Eden region, Mr Dave Ryan, said yesterday he believed that the fire had started in a pile of bark which was set alight in May as part of a clean-up after logging in the area. "There was no rain all winter, and it must have just smouldered away for all those months", he said. Tuesday had brought ideal conditions for the fire to run rampant.

"It got up to 44 degrees here on Tuesday", he said. "After the fire was detected, at about 2.50 pm, the temperature reached its peak, the humidity was down to 10 per cent, and a strong southerly wind blew up". Evidence of the wind was seen yesterday at the small fishing resort of Wonboyn Lake, on the coastal fringe of the fire zone, where caravans were overturned and a house under construction was flattened. Mr Ryan said the wind had reached about 150 km/h. The fire stopped on the edge of the little town, but bushland around it was charred.

Yesterday afternoon, 100 RAN personnel were flown from HMAS Albatross, Nowra, to Merimbula, the nearest airfield to the fire. The Navy men moved into the fire zone last night and, under the direction of the NSW Forestry Commission staff, helped clear fire breaks. During its short life, the fire gutted a National Parks and Wildlife Services lodge in the Nadgee Nature Reserve, on the coastal fringe of the fire zone, destroyed about $175,000 worth of earthmoving and logging equipment, burnt out a house on a small property, after the owner was evacuated, and destroyed sheds and fences and brought down power and telephone lines.


21 April - A weatherboard building known as Old Tathra Post-Office, owned by Mr. Benjamin Gowing, and its contents owned by Mr. Basil Lawler, were destroyed by fire early yesterday morning. The building was uninsured but the contents were covered. The origin of the fire is unknown. (Sydney Morning Herald, 1930)194024 February - Five cottages and a general store were burnt when bush fires swept through Tathra a pleasure resort 11 miles from Bega. Many residents escaped the flames by sitting in the sea. Others stood under a wharf as the fire went through the town. A police car outside a store was destroyed Flames were fought by volunteers with water from household tanks. At Cobargo people were called from the annual show, to fight fires by way of Cooma.  (Barrier Miner, Broken Hill 1940)


31st August - The inaugural meeting of the Jellat Jellat Bushfire Brigade was held at Tathra 31st August 1942. At this meeting Mr. J. B. D’Arcy outlined the fundamental principles of a properly organised Bushfire Brigade. Mr. W. Russell was elected Captain, Mr. J Taylor Jnr. Vice Captain, with Mr. L. R. Gowing Secretary. Present at this meeting were Messrs J. Taylor Snr., W. Russell, J.B. D’Arcy, J. Taylor Jnr., D.R. and L.R. Gowing. Tathra was also well represented.(As far as was known) this was the first Volunteer Bushfire Brigade organised in this area. Subsequently many other areas in the District followed the lead given by the Jellat organisation. Because of the prevailing dry conditions in 1942, there was a growing awareness of the danger of bushfires. This situation was aggravated by the lack of manpower, many of the younger generation being involved with World War II.The main equipment were some leather beaters and wet bags. In the early years the Bushfire Brigade was mainly concerned with helping to fight fires outside their own area. A meeting was held in Bega soon after the formation of the Jellat Bushfire Brigade to organise the various areas of the district. A brigade had already been formed in Candelo and, in fighting fires in January 1942, lost one or more cars. The Bega River at that time had stopped flowing from Christmas to the following March, the first time ever. This was to be repeated in 1968.


Big Blaze Near Candelo

Three motor cars were destroyed, and a motor truck badly scorched during a bush, fire at Candelo, South Coast, yesterday. One of the cars was used forpatrol purposes by the Police Superintendent at Goulburn before being taken over in 1940 by Inspector Twiss of Bega. The other cars lost were privately owned.

Constables Patterson and Cavanagh, while making an attempt to save the police car, were overcome by the heat and smoke. Constable Patterson collapsed and was taken to a nearby homestead, where he recovered after treatment. He was uninjured except for scorched eyes.

!n a report today to Superintendent Duckworth, of Goulburn, Inspector Twiss stated that at 12 noon on Sunday, a fire which had broken out in the Wyndham Ranges led to a call from Bega. There was an immediate response and the police car, together with 200 residents of the town, went to the scene.

The fire swept through 20 square miles of country, but no homes were destroyed and no lives were lost. Inspector Twiss continued: "I went with the crew of the police car to Mr. Percy Collins' property, about  2 miles from Candelo. The wind was blowing with great force and a particularly strong burst threatened the police car and other cars, which had been parked in what had been thought to be a safe place. Constable Boardman managed to save the police truck, which was badly scorched along one side.

“Fortunately a southerly change at 7 pm helped the volunteers to check the flames.” (Goulburn Evening Post)

 1943 – 1969