WHILE Valla RFS Brigade is in awe of our brand new Cat 1, and of course, our ever-reliable 1998 Mitsubishi Canter Cat 7 tanker, we thought we'd take a stroll down memory lane and have a look at the vehicles in the Brigade's past.
The first tanker was a petrol powered 4WD International D1410.
Before the tanker arrived in 1986, the Brigade relied on private machinery and trailer tankers.
These were stored on properties around the area and towed using private vehicles when fires occurred.
They might seem primitive, especially compared to modern standards, but many fires were extinguished when the community got together.
The D1410's were quite a capable fire truck for their time.
They sat three in the cab with more crew on the back in an open topped crew area. They carried around 1000L of water and had a Briggs and Stratton motor driving the pump!
While capable, they were prone to petrol vaporisation and jumping out of 4WD.
This would eventually seal the fate of Valla's first D1410.
On August 22 1991, a crew from Valla were assisting Forestry with a fire over the back of the Bollanolla/Viewmont range.
A crew of six, three in the front, three on the back, current Captain Peter was at the wheel.
They were heading down Valley Valley Trail, looking for a place to turn around.
Then it happened, the low range selector jumped out of gear, sending the tanker hurtling down the steep hill.
The crew travelled a considerable distance in Angel Gear, unable to stop, bouncing over the trails rollovers, and spending a significant amount of time airborne.
Knowing that the trail deteriorated ahead, Captain Peter knew drastic action was required to stop the runaway truck.
He lined up a stump on the side of the track, hoping it would slow their fall. The collision tore the front axle off the vehicle, and the tanker began to roll.
The three firefighters on the back somehow got off the truck on the first roll. The tanker rolled two more times before coming to rest against a small Turpentine tree.
Despite the radio hanging by wires, the crew could radio 'Bowra Base' for help.
Miraculously, the six onboard were ok, suffering only minor injuries; cuts, bruises and one broken ankle.
In those days, there was no talk of CISS or counselling. The members were back out that very night, to a fire in Hyland Park, in the HQ D1410, the same vehicle type as the one that crashed.
This tanker was loaned to the Brigade until the old tanker was replaced.
On a side note, the fire they were heading too, was never fully contained, and it burnt all the way to Valla six weeks later.
I consulted former Fire Control Officer, the legend Wal Kelly, for information on Valla's First Tanker.
The Shire had four international D1410's at the time, one each at Eungai, Argents Hill, HQ and Valla.
The trucks were purchased from Queensland and were converted to fire trucks by Nambucca Valley Council workshop staff.
The arrival of the tanker coincided with the construction of Valla's RFS station.
The single bay station is still in use today; however, an extra bay was added in the early '90s.
Fingers crossed, we get the funding required from this year's State Budget to extend the station again to accommodate the new Cat 1 tanker.
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