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The Freeman’s Reach Rural Fire Brigade is located in the foothills of the Hawkesbury District and overlooks the floodplains of the Hawkesbury River, it is approximately 60 kilometres north-west of Sydney. Our Brigade area is, for the most part, bordered by the Hawkesbury River to the south, Redbank Creek to the west, Peels Dairy to the north-west, Currency Creek to the north and then a line bisecting McKinnons Rd, Lock Rd and Bushells Lagoon to the east.

 The area has a mix of commercial farmland, small hobby farms, horse studs and a village area consisting of approximately 600 houses, a high school, primary school and a handful of small businesses.

We attend on average between 30 to 50 fire calls per year. These calls range from grass and bush fires to structural fires, motor vehicle accidents and smaller backyard fires. Of course, we also assist other services where required included storm damage and floods.

The Brigade is also involved in numerous community activities including school and church fetes, various fundraising activities and the RFS Open Day.

 

History

Prior to 1951 there was an unofficial group of locals who, in times of fire and flood, pitched in to help each other when in times of need. From the early 1900’s onwards there was a locally acknowledged ‘Ranger’ who would oversee any major incidents that may arise. The first Ranger in Freemans Reach was Alex Smith Jnr. He was followed in the 1940’s by his son, Athol ‘Snowy’ Smith.

The Freemans Reach Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was officially formed in 1951. This came about when the group of locals decided to hold a meeting to discuss the problems they were having in fighting local fires without any equipment other than what was held on each individual farm or property. They also needed some structure and organization to assist them with fighting fires. As a result of this meeting, the Freemans Reach Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was formed and its first Captain was appointed in Athol ‘Snowy’ Smith.

A requisition was immediately forwarded to Colo Shire Council for some beaters and knapsacks. A local farmer, Hector Adams, who worked at the historical Reiby Farm on Blacktown Rd, agreed to allow the use of his tractor and trailer to be the Brigades first ‘response’ vehicle. The beaters and knapsacks were store on the trailer at Captain Snowy Smith’s barn on Kurmond Rd near Martins Lane. It could be said that response times were somewhat slower than what we experience nowadays.

In 1967 the Brigade acquired an ex army Landrover which replaced the tractor. This vehicle had a 100 ltr tank, small pump and a hose. Within a couple of years a small block of land on Kurmond Rd, near Reserve Rd, was acquired and a shed was built. This shed has since been through four extensions and continues to be our current station, albeit small, it has been our home now for over 40 years.

The various extensions to the station have been generally as a result of the expansion of our fire trucks, in particular their size, which has resulted in the roof being raised three times. Our trucks have gone from the humble beginnings of the tractor and Landrover, to a Leyland from 1971 – 1991, a second hand ex Victorian CFA Acco from 1991 – 1997, before we moved into our current fleet of Isuzu tankers with the original Isuzu being 1997 – 1999, a new replacement in 1999 till 2008 and our current Isuzu which we received in 2008. A Toyota Hilux Dual Cab Personnel Carrier is also housed at our station. During the 1980’s we also had a small Striker Unit and a hand built Bedford Bulk Water Tanker.

It was during this period in the late 1970’s and 1980’s that the Brigade was at its largest with the two tankers and a striker unit plus over 30 very active members. The Brigade built a reputation as being very reliable and were known as the ‘mop up brigade’ due to their commitment to making sure every fire was completely blacked out before leaving the scene. The Captain during this period was Owen Earle, the son-in-law of Snowy Smith, who led the Brigade after Snowy retired in 1971 until he retired as Captain himself in 1993. Owen was also appointed as one of the first Group Captains in the Hawkesbury in the late 1980’s. Graeme Withers Captained the Brigade for one year in 1991.

After Owen retired as Captain in 1993, Michael ‘Bluey’ Flaherty took over as Captain. He led the Brigade through what was arguably the biggest changes to the RFS. It was a tough period for the Brigade, by the time Bluey finished his stint as Captain in 2004 there had been major fires in the Hawkesbury District and around NSW in 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2001. Bluey was also a Group Captain from 2002 until his passing in 2008. Malcolm Boyle had a two year period as Captain between 2004 and 2006 before the family tradition returned to lead the Brigade. In 2006 the current Captain Bruce Earle, son of Owen Earle and grandson of Snowy Smith, became the 3rd generation to Captain the Brigade.

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