A Fiery Time for Tilligerry Firefighters

An early photo of a Tanilba tanker beside the original station
An early photo of a Tanilba tanker beside the original station

 

THE official date for the opening of the new Tilligerry Rural Fire Service Station has been set down for Saturday, 12 August.

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With that in mind, perhaps it’s timely to cast our minds back through the decades of a somewhat fiery time for those unpaid volunteers involved in protecting us from the flames.

The Lemon Tree Passage Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was formed in 1969 with the station being built by volunteer labour. It opened in 1972.

Boys as young as ten years of age were accepted as junior members and accredited by the Bushfire Council.

A Ladies’ Auxiliary acted as a backup for catering.

There were no active female firefighters in these times.

A falling out saw Tanilba members depart and build their own ‘bessa brick’ station at Tanilba.

As a fundraiser, locals were asked to ‘buy a brick’ for $2 and a red thermometer sign at Mallabula showed the building fund’s progress.

The station opened in 1981. Later, a violent storm unroofed the station and the walls collapsed.

Port Stephens Council rebuilt it in brick and it reopened in 1990.

Burning off was seen as the key to firefighting as well as being a handy fundraiser.

Grateful property owners were only too keen to ‘kick the can’ after burn offs around their homes were done.

Bushfires were nowhere near as hot as they are today because the fuel levels were kept as low as possible.

They still got away, however, and the most threatening occurred in November 1980 when a Tanilba bushfire jumped Mallabula and tore through Lemon Tree Passage to the water’s edge. No homes were lost.

Burn offs virtually ceased with the formation of the RFS, the development of management plans and the removal of local control.

Our new station with its associated infrastructure will cost around $1,000,000.

Another $500,000 will be spent constructing our new roundabout at Tanilba Gates.

Port Stephens Council owns the freehold title to the old Lemon Tree Passage station.

It will be ‘recycled’ as an arts and tourist information centre.

The current Tanilba site is leased from the State Government specifically for a fire station and the conditions

need to be changed if it is to be used for any other purpose.

Want to know more? ‘A History of the Tilligerry Peninsula’ (1996) published by our Family History Society tells the full story.

By Geoff WALKER

The new state-of-the-art structure rises in RAF Park Tanilba Bay.
The new state-of-the-art structure rises in RAF Park Tanilba Bay.

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