Two Wells Country Fire Service
|Type of organisation:||Community Service|
|Also known as:||Two Wells Emergency Service, Two Wells C.F.S.|
|Street name:||Old Pt Wakefield Rd.|
|Town or locality:|| Two Wells, South Australia
History of the Two Wells Country Fire Service
By Phillip Earl - Group Officer of Light Country Fire Service Group.
How it all started
Prior to the establishment of the Emergency Fire service, country people would fight fires with very basic tools and equipment. This was usually limited to shovels, rakes, wet bags, leather floppers, knapsacks and the odd privately owned motorized pumps. Mallala Council purchased hand operated Ajax pumps and 44 gallon drums to be distributed throughout the district following an Act of Parliament in the Mid 1930s. Mallala council also had a 400 gallon tank & motorized pump that could be put onto a council truck filled with water ready to fight fires through out the district. This act made it the responsibility of local councils to provide Fire Fighting Equipment and appoint Fire Control Officers within the council area. I believe this started in the early 1940s, on a 50/50 subsidy with the state government sharing the cost of equipment. This 50/50 subsidy for fire-fighting equipment went on for many years up to a change in the subsidy ratio then after the introduction of the Emergency Fire Service Levy by the State Government. Now all funds are state funds.
Councils became members of Fire fighting associations across South Australia. Mallala Council was a member of the Lower North Fire fighting Association. This saw membership of Councils from Eudunda and Robertstown, in the north to Balaklava to the west and Freeling to the east to name a few. In later years, EFS/CFS brigades also became members. The Fire fighting Associations were the fore runner of the Volunteer Fire Brigades Association and now the South Australian Country Fire Service Volunteer Association representing the 17,000 CFS volunteers across the state.
Fire Control Officers were in charge of a fire within their own council area. This was usually a local Councillor or Farmer, who was issued with a medal badge, so they could be identified at a fire. When a fire occurred, certain farmers were notified by the local Telephone Exchange Operator who had a list of contacts. The Operator would notify the appointed farmers who would collect pumps and drums spread throughout the district. These drums were full of water and stood on a wooden stand made from repurposed railway sleepers. They were loaded onto trucks and utes to fight the fires. These pumps and stands stayed in place until the early 1970s when council removed them.(One stand still exists north of Sharman’s at Calomba.) Privately owned equipment was also utilised through this system.
At Two Wells a Tank full of water with a hand pump, knapsacks and hand tools were permanently set up on chocks ready for a truck to reverse under. This was located near a quarry at the rear of the Institute in Two Wells. A Council truck or private trucks were used for this purpose. Later a motorized pump was fitted. This system worked well but relied on the same people’s trucks being available to fight the fires.
' An Assigned Fire Brigade with Appliances'
Following the Second World War equipment and trucks became more readily available, so in 1957 a public meeting was held to form the Two Wells Emergency Fire Service. Money was raised through donations and with the support of the Mallala District Council, who placed a levy on Council rates for 1 year. A Fire Station and Siren was erected in the main street of Two Wells and a 1942 two wheel drive, Lend lease Chevrolet, truck was converted into a Fire Appliance by the Mallala Council Mechanic, Mr Les Burford at a cost of 759Pounds ($1518). It had a water capacity of 650 Gallons with a Rex pump powered by Wisconsin motor.
On the 20th of December 1957 the Two Wells EFS shed and appliance was officially commissioned by the Director of the Emergency Fire Service of South Australia, Mr Fred Kerr. Mr AH Harvey was the first Station Officer of the brigade. In August 1958, the Two Wells Emergency Fire service was officially registered. A New Bedford appliance purchased from Curnow’s at Two Wells replaced the original Chevrolet around 1966. In 1970 another appliance arrived, a local built International AB110. In 1972, an Austin Gipsy 4x4 both these appliances were second hand. In 1978 a second hand International c1300 appliance made in Sharpe brothers shed at Two Wells by brigade members replaced the Gipsy, which then went to Dublin CFS. In 1979 an A.J Stock built new Dodge appliance costing $30,000 replaced the decommissioned Bedford. In 1992, a new 24 type Hino appliance built at Murray Bridge replaced the international c1300. In 1998, a Moore’s built Hino 34 replaces the Dodge. 2009 a new Isuzu 34p Dual cab appliance replaces the Hino 24. In 2017 another Isuzu 34 Dual cab appliance.
Currently the brigade has a 34 dual cab Isuzu appliance for rural fires and a 34 P dual cab for urban and rural type fires. Currently in 2020, we have appliances such as the Two Wells 34 and 34P. This is abbreviated to mean 3as 3000lts and the 4 being 4 wheel drive. The P indicates a pumper with increased pump capacity for urban type fires
In the mid 1960’s, a Humber car was cut down and used at competitions by the Brigade. It was also used for local fires by the Deputy Supervisor whom was appointed by the Mallala Council, Mr Reg Hart. It had a drum for water and a motorised pump. The brigade was very competitive in the state run competitions which were held at different towns across the state. These competitions were hosted at Two Wells Oval in 1972, and 1982. In 1967 Two Wells was awarded best and most efficient appliance and crew, and in 1969 won the BP achievement award at the state competitions.
Radios in Appliances'
High Frequency radios were first introduced in the early 1960s. These radios were installed in appliances to communicate with each other and mobile appliances. The Mallala Council vehicles sharing the same frequency. From 1960-1975 different Council areas were on their own frequencies. The Base Radio was located in the Mallala Council Office. Two Wells had a mobile radio at the beginning in the Institute. This was then relocated to the Station. In 1975, the state changed to new Very High Frequency (VHF) radios. The Council still retained the licenses however an additional two state frequencies were added through a repeater network. This gave better communication throughout the state. Each Council still had their own channels and Two Wells also had the Virginia and One Tree Hill Channel.
The VHF radios were upgraded across the state in 1991 to a Multi channel set, this was the first time everyone had the same type of radios in appliances across the state. This came into existence from the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires where poor communications were experienced. Hand held radios also became more popular as the technology improved. The Base station was still located at Mallala Council office and each brigade had their own station radios. In 2000 the Government Radio Network (GRN) was introduced. This meant each CFS Group had a dedicated channel and access to multi talk groups across the state with the ability to communicate with other Emergency Agencies. This was also a recommendation from the Ash Wednesday fires Royal Commission.
Communication Call Signs – Two Wells
In the 1960s and 1970s at Two Wells Brigade, the Bedford was known as Mobile 6, the International was Mobile 7 and the Council car was known as Mobile 1. Approximately in the 1980s, this changed to a new system to identify the type of vehicle. Two Wells Dodge was now known as Two Wells 52, this being a large type of 2wd appliance. The International 1300 unit was now Two Wells 61 a small 4x4 appliance. The Call sign was VL5FZ this was assigned to the Mallala Council for the EFS/ CFS each council area had a different call sign.
Name Changes and Amalgamations'
In 1976, the Country fires Act was introduced into State Parliament and in 1977 the Emergency Fire Service changed to the Country Fire Service. This was not simply a name change, but introduced many legislative changes. Station officers became Captains, Supervisors became Group Officers and each Brigade was a member of its own group. Two Wells, Mallala and Dublin became known as the Mallala CFS group. This later amalgamated to become the Light Group with 11 Brigades from the Mallala and Light Regional Councils. The CFS Group Base is currently at Roseworthy.
In the early years the Brigade only attended single-digit call outs, this continued until the 1970s. By the 1980s this increased to call outs in the Fifties. By 1990s the call outs were in the hundreds. In 2018, the Brigade attended 232 call outs a year. The call outs have changed over the years from solely fires to all types of emergencies. Since the late 1980s, vehicle accidents account for about 30% of all callouts. This has resulted in increased expectations from the community of Volunteers within the Brigade. Volunteers are investing more time into training and are highly committed. Two Wells has 6 accredited members in Road Crash Rescue to assist Dublin and Virginia Brigades who have the life saving equipment. The brigade also has 11 personnel trained in Breathing Apparatus (BA) for structure fires or hazards environments.
Floods have played a big part of the call outs over the years with personnel being involved from 1983 onwards with both the Gawler and Light Rivers on many separate and combined floods. The brigade has been involved in many interstate deployments since the Sydney fires in 1994 and strike teams with appliances or personnel only, all over the state of South Australia.
'Methods of Response to Call Outs'
Crews once responded to call outs via the siren at the station. Members of the public started out by asking the Phone Exchange Operator to report a fire. The operator activated the siren via the telephone exchange. Personnel would respond to the station and answer the phone to find out the details of where to attend the fire. Then over the years various phone systems allowed calls to be taken in members’ homes. When the automatic exchange was connected, members of the public could dial the fire service 202 000 connecting into Member’s homes. The member who answered their phone first would take down all the details. Other members could listen into the conversation to also get the details of where to attend. The member could then activate the town siren via a button on their telephone.
This then lead to tone pagers being carried to notify members. Pagers were then updated to digital displayed message of call out details. These are the same pagers used in 2020. Now all calls come from Adelaide Fire Via a 000 call from a member of the public. Members receive a detailed digital message via their pagers. The siren is rarely used but since the Pinery Fires in November 2015 the siren remains an additional way to warn of fire or other emergency for crew and members of the public.
The brigade is nothing without its dedicated volunteers. This number has increased over the years from 10 or so in the early years to over 40 fire-fighters and numerous Brigade support members today. In 2020 at Two Wells Station, this number includes 6 active female fire-fighters. These members also participate in management roles at major fires or incidents across the state, not just local events.
Since the 1970s the brigade has encouraged Cadets. Cadets are members who range in age from between 11 to 16 years of age. The number of Cadets has increased in the last 20 years to constantly be around 20. Of that total, nearly half are female members. Over the years some members who have started as Cadets have moved onto become Senior Fire-Fighters and Officers of the Brigade.
The Two Wells brigade currently has 10 life members paying tribute to the long and dedicated membership of the Brigade over many years.
The original Two Wells Station built in 1957 remained the same but had numerous additions to the width, length and internal fit out. The old station is now the RSL building.
1994 saw the current station built on Wells Road with all the internal rooms constructed by dedicated Members under the Supervision from a local builder and Brigade Member Mr Bill Milton. This was done to save money at the time so the Brigade could get the size and shed needed.
Unfortunately the current station is no longer practical and a larger addition to the existing station or a completely new station will be required to meet the current and future needs of the Brigade.
Officer in Charge at the Brigade
A.H Harvey 1957-1959
E.S Goode 1960-1962
G.A Prior 1963-1966
B.L Wilson 1967-1970
P.I Hart 1971-1975
I.M Gameau 1976-1979
B.L Wilson 1980-1983
W.E Milton 1984
P.L Earl 1985-1989
D.J Eland 1990
P.L Earl 1991-2005
T.J Wilson 2005-2007
K. Barrowcliff 2007-2008
- Phillip Earl - Group Officer of Light CFS Group (2020)