Wagga Wagga City
Tarcutta is situated on the Hume Highway 455km from Melbourne and 415km from Sydney. The Tarcutta Brigade is the one of the busiest Brigades in the Riverina Zone attending Motor Vehicle Accidents and Fires and other Incidents on the Hume Highway. The Tarcutta Brigade was formed on 1937 and received its first powered unit in 1950. In the late 50’s the Brigade owned its first truck which was a Chevy Lendlease after Barry Heard and Frank Halloran purchased it from an auction in Sydney. In 1968 the Brigade received a Bedford 4WD tanker which was an ex forestry unit.
A little about Sid Heard
Sid Heard was born in Hawksdale area of Victoria and his parents managed stations in various parts of the Riverina. Sid came to Tarcutta in 1928 and settled at “Springfield” marrying Edna Caroline Webb in 1933. He became interested in the bushfire brigade work and was Captain of the Tarcutta Brigade between 1940 to 1960. After the devastating fires in 1952 which swept through many areas, Sid and Alex Porters were the prime movers in setting up one of the first Bushfire Brigade radio networks in NSW. They experienced difficulty obtaining a radio license as this concept was so new. Their radio call sign of V.L.2.P.K. has carried on to be the current call sign of the Wagga City Council’s Bushfire Brigade today. From 1960 to the mid 70’s, Sid was the communications officer for the Tarcutta Bushfire Brigade and operated the base radio for this area.
A topic of conversation among farmers often is the worst drought, worst
fire, biggest flood, heaviest snowfall, etc. It is evident the 1905 fire
was a terrible one. From records we know that many houses and the Mate
woolshed among others were burnt. But we relate this story as it affected
Another report on the 1905 fires
The whole of Tarcutta, Oberne and Humula areas were completely burnt
out on the 1st January 1905. Red grass and Kangaroo Grass had grown fence
high through the dead timber. Nothing could be done to stop the fire on
this terrible day. The temperature on the 31st December 1904 had reached
119 degrees fareinhieght, but no one had time to look at the thermometers
on the cruel New Years Day that followed. Mr. J.D. Archer remembers the
occasion well. “On New Years Eve (1904) I had been to a dance at
the O’Toole’s home situated on the boundary of the two station
holdings, “Umutbee” (Mate’s) and “Borambola”
(Donnelly’s). I reached our home early on New Years a.m., 1905 and
went to bed but not for long. Along came the vicious flames, uncontrollable
because of the wind and heat. Mrs. A Whiting recalls that her family was
told to run for their lives from their home to Ingram’s store. The
fires came in behind them, through the trees as they fled. Their house
caught fire but was put out. Some houses and old sheds along the creek
in Tarcutta were burnt.
In February, a fire started near the road camp on Shoemark’s (Burkinshaw’s). A northerly wind took the fire through to McIntyre’s (Sheridan’s). That night the fire was held along the Keajura road, but a lot of timber was a light! The next day was an even worse day, with very strong Westerly’s blowing. The fire broke on a wide front, jumping the creek and the Highway. Burchers and Cuttlers lost their homes. There was heavy loss of stock. 200,000 acres were burnt.
Trucks and water tanks played a big part in stopping this fire which occurred in the Ladysmith and Tarcutta Brigade areas. Tarcutta Village was threatened at one stage. The Coreinbob area was devastated. Three local fire fighters were badly burnt. Ken Morris lost his house and Coreinbob School was burnt before the fire was contained.
WITH THANKS TO BILL BELLING FOR THE FOLLOWING
Pre Mate – 1835
Land occupied by the Waradgarie Tribe. Land was (grass) burned every year. Big trees and plenty of open spaces helped with the open spaces for not enough fuel for major fires.
1835 – 1900
Heavy grazing, most of the native pastures killed out, example, Kangaroo grass and Phragmites reed. Smaller root grasses survived and there was some introduction of White Clover and Rye Grass etc. Very heavy re growth of eucalyptus suckers and many areas of parkland turned into dense bush.
1900 – 1950
The huge fire that burned from Jerilderie to the mountains. Five babies succumbed in the heat (including the Hazelwood baby, they lived at “Mahonga” then). Olly Murray (Borambola) told me of trying to save the home with all buckets of water. Through some quirk of nature, there was a slap crack of thunder and heavy rain fell for a few minutes. It saved the house and 40 acres of oats. Lyle Lucas told me that his father said most of the small settlers in Oberne Valley were wiped out and had to sell out. Rob Halloran’s father was in Tumut for mass. It was 100 degrees farenheight at 10 am. Word came through of the fire. Mr. Halloran said “I’ll go home and start mustering”. Others said “you’re mad it will never reach Lacmalac”. They were burnt out by 9 pm that night. Mate’s woolshed was burnt.
January 8th, 1914
Fire at Daisy hill – Extract from Sam Brown’s diary. Note a water cart is mentioned. Bushes and bags were the main fire extinguishers.
SAM BROWN’S 1914 DIARY:
January 8th 1914. I put the day in watching the fire at Daisy Hill. Jim, Jack Griffith, W. Griffith, young Jack Griffith and young White boy had the water tank to put out stumps and logs. We got it pretty safe early in the day. John Cox came there about 10 with the fire beaters and he had not even a water bag or billy tin to get a drink. He had no food. We, Jack Griffith, Josh Brown and Jim Brown had to divide our bit of lunch with the other men. It doesn’t say much for the fire brigade of Tarcutta. Kyeamba men on this side of the fire had plenty of food and water supplied by Kyeamba Station, also fruit. It seems that this place is the worst in the district. Mr. W. H. Mate was up at the fire and he never had a bit of food for the extra men at the fire. It is a damn disgrace to the Station when his men have to give their bit of lunch to those who come to save his grass.
Fire started when a new road was being put through to Shoemark’s and Bromham's . Camp fire not put out properly (from workman). On the second day strong westerlies took over. It burnt about 250,000 acres. (Not to many cattle around in 1940, mainly dairy cattle). In 1940 there were a few trucks about, but very few engine driven pumps. Some had hand pumps. Mainly beaters and knapsacks which were making an appearance. Telephones were not connected to all houses, so communication was very hard.
1950 – 2000
Two men every one should be very proud of, Alex Porter and Sid Heard.
The need for wireless is a great help in fire fighting, also search and
ROAD SIDE FIRES
Since about 1980 with the huge rise in the volume of traffic there have been many road side fires, but with the advert of mobile telephones the brigade is quickly alerted. Up till 1974 the railway was a real hazard and it had to be burnt every year.
2000 – 2005
Our equipment is getting better every year. Our brigade has been called away with a unit and team to places around the country, so we are able to spread our help to others. 2005 we saw helicopters being used in the Wagga area, so we have come along way from the bush’s and bags.
A story from The Daily Advertiser
In 17 years of experience dealing with the bush fires, the Tarcutta Bush Fire Brigade has developed one of the most modern radio fire – fighting units in Australia. With its modern equipment, valued at more than 5000 Pounds, the Brigade can plot a fire and the fighters on the spot with in minutes of the discovery.
Formed in 1937 – 38 the brigade has learned the hard way, and disastrous fires have taught it that reliable and efficient communications are essential if a fire is to be brought under control speedily. The use of radio is quickly catching on with other brigades in the Kyeamba Shire, and already Book Book and Humula Brigades are using them in conjunction with Tarcutta. The Tarcutta Brigade is equipped with a powerful transmitter and receiver and its radio base in Porters Garage in Tarcutta.
The Brigade Captain (Mr. Sid Heard) has a mobile radio in his car and members have the use of two other walkie talkie sets. Each pack set can send and receive clearly under the worst conditions for a distance of up to 10 miles. The radio in Sid Heard’s car has a clear reception for up to 20 miles. Other equipment owned and available by the brigade includes 26 power units, 150 knapsacks and the flame throwers.
In case of emergency the brigade can turn out about 150 fighters. At present there are 70 active members in the Brigade. Mr. Heard yesterday praised the land holders in Kyeamba Shire and the Tarcutta town’s people yesterday for their readiness to co operate. The radio equipment has not been used extensively yet but during a fire at Lower Tarcutta last year it proved its worth.
The Brigade uses the equipment in trials and while burning off along the railway lines. In order that fires can be located quickly and accurately, three sun compasses have been erected throughout the brigade’s area. One is at Mr. Heard’s home, another 15 miles away on the Albury road on George Osborne’s property, and the other on Norm Kelly’s property at Lower Tarcutta. The brigade is preparing to erect another compass in the district, probably in the Albury Rd area. The compasses enable fire fighters to plot any outbreak in most of the territory controlled by the brigade, a matter of 120 square miles. Much of the Brigades country is rugged and densely timbered and large power units are needed. The brigade has two 400 gallon units and is getting another one from the Kyeamba Shire this year. Mr. Heard realized the need for radio and proper communications after bad fires in 1955. “We have never been short of a few bob – we brought all the machinery our selves” he said.
640 POUND THROWN IN
Mr. Heard said after a meeting following a fire in 1952, 640 Pond was thrown into the middle of the floor. “We didn’t even ask for it”, he said. The base set operates on two frequencies of 150 kilowatts and 10 megacycles and 11 valves. The call station is VL2PK. Each set is powerful enough to pick up America, and the Flying Doctor Service at Broken Hill comes through clearly. The set operates on a wave length of 4540.
The latest addition to the modern fire fighting equipment of the Tarcutta District is a fire siren for the town. It will be installed shortly. Mr. Proctor’s base station is crowded with powerful transmitters, receivers, compasses and extensive testing materials. In the case of a fire, his is an almost round the clock job keeping in contact with other units. The brigade Secretary (Jack McAlister) said yesterday, “The beauty about the pack sets is that you can take them right to the front fire”.
“Our biggest fire danger comes from the West and from the highway”, he said. The water supply is much better now than a few years ago. “There are many more dams and overhead filling depots in the district”, Mr. McAlister said. Catering for the fire fighters is also a big job and a women’s auxiliary has been formed to prepare the food and take it to the “front”. Detailed maps of the district have been prepared showing all the properties, water, tree growth and mountains. Mr. Heard said, “We have an excellent bunch of fire fighters and co operate well with other brigades, of which there are 16 in the Kyeamba Shire.
DISASTROUS BUSHFIRES………SEVERAL LIVES LOST.
On December 31, 1904, terrible bushfires swept through the Riverina, including the Wagga District. An enormous tract of country being desolated. Many homesteads were destroyed, together with a large aggregate of wheat, fencing, etc. In the Riverina generally there were several lives lost. Numbers of people escaped by taking refuge in water. At Sandy Creek, Mr. Alan Snedgrass had been engaged strenuously fighting in the fires and when the danger had passed he went beneath the shelter of a hay stack to rest. There he collapsed and died of heart failure. At Uranquinty a man named SW Fallon was burnt to death. The unfortunate man had heroically gone to try and relieve some horses that were threatened by the fires, travelling rapidly from Sandy Creek, and he was overcome by flames and smoke. When the great body of flame had passed he could not be found. Next morning his charred remains were found. The horse had also been severely burnt. Deceased was in the employ of Mr. F Burnes, a farmer form Sandy Creek.
Yerong Creek, Sandy Creek, Mangoplah, The Rock, Uranquinty, Coreinbob, Little Billabong, Big Spring’s, Tooles Creek, Gregadoo, Deep water Station, and Kyeamba Station, Cunningdroo, Borambola Station, Braehour, Lake Albert, Forest Hill, Wantabadgery Station, and other parts of the district were all more or less devastated and serious loses were sustained by both farmers and graziers. Other places which suffered heavily were, Book Book, Umbango, Pomingalarna, Ballymoran, Yarragundry, Humula, Tarcutta, Illabo, Moorong, and Rosewood. Large number of sheep and other animals were destroyed and also machinery and implements. The Mayor, Mr. Blake wrote to the Premiere, Mr. J.H. Carruthers, urging that action should be taken to afford relief to sufferers. He pointed out that the disastrous fires had thrown scores of families out of house and home and had rendered others dependant on public charity for needs and where within to continue their avocations as labourer’s contractors and farmers.
In reply the Premiere wired as follows:
“Your letter received. Instructions have been wired to every town to Government Officials to relieve all distress by fire” Messages were also received from Canon Carver (NZ), Mr. JC Watson (MP), Sir William Layne (MP), and others. Mrs. Winchcombe, Carson & Co. wired a donation of 50 Pounds to the Mayor. A large public meeting was held in Sydney, when the Premiere spoke, and the sum of 1300 Pounds was raised in the room for the relief of sufferers by the fire. The Premiere gave instructions to the Inspector – General of Police to take steps throughout the affected area to have sufferers given what relief was needed.
The fires had swept through a huge area of the Riverina and had particularly extended from the Murray to the Murrumbidgee. Other districts that were seriously affected were, Albury, Corowa and Gundagai where great losses of stock and other property were sustained and some lives were lost. Many people had narrow escapes and some thrilling experiences. Driven by a strong wind the flames travelled at a tremendous rate and many people had to concentrate on saving their lives leaving property to take care of itself. Scenes of desolation were witnessed all over Riverina, and a common spectacle was that of dead sheep huddled in heaps where they had been terrified and overcome by the flames.
Tarcutta 1A Tarcutta 1B
Tarcutta 2A Tarcutta 7A
Wagga 16B Tarcutta 2A & 1B at Station
Tarcutta 14 Tarcutta 15