The Hall Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade was first established in the summer of 1943-44, becoming the third of the four official brigades operating in the ACT – Mulligan’s Flat, Weetangera and Tuggeranong. Today Hall is the only brigade still in existence under its own title here in the north of Canberra. It should be noted that the objectives that establis hed rural fire brigades here in the ACT were first sanctioned with the adoption of the 1939 Bushfire Act.
In the early days, the Brigade held no equipment. Volunteers attended fires and used corn sacks they kept on hand to beat out flames. Beyond these sacks, they fashioned beaters from brush cut on the spot. Water carrying knap-sacks were almost unheard of. Canberra itself at this time was far more rural than urban in its nature and size, with little to mark it as Australia’s capital other than Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial.
As Hall approached the 1950s a central bus shelter was erected from material salvaged from the old Mulligan’s Flat School and it doubled as a fire equipment shed. The shed housed leather beaters ( a ‘modern’ derivation of sacks that used strips of leather tightly bound to a wooden handle), McLeod’s tools or rakehoes, knap-sack sprays and a hand pump used to transport water. When the Brigade wasn’t providing fire services, they also completed minor works around the Village including assisting in the construction of the bridge over Hall Creek.
During the 1960s the construction of inner Canberra was well underway and a 7,570 litre (2000 gallon) water tank was erected on a high stand on the north west corner of Victoria and Gladstone Streets as a water source for fire fighting. It was kept full by the government water tanker. An actual water supply to the Village of Hall had been under consideration for many years and on April 1 1967, the Minister for the Interior, the Hon. J.D. (Doug) Anthony performed the official “turning on” of the water.
With this access to water, the Hall Brigade received a donation of a length of canvas and a stand-pipe from the ACT Fire Brigade and locals were shown how to operate them. With no dedicated Brigade Shed the new equipment was stored in a box at the Dalgety Estate Agent’s Office (now Alan Golding Real Estate) in Victoria Street.
The original Brigade died out sometime around the late 1960s, partly due to a lack of equipment but mainly because most residents worked away from the Village and were not available during the day as Canberra itself established its government base and work began in earnest to develop the National Capital.
On February 13 1979, known as “Black Tuesday”, a fire started on a property called ‘Sunny Corner’, just over the creek from the Hall Showgrounds. The majority of losses were in the immediate Hall district. A total of 16,500 hectares of land was burnt out in the ACT and NSW. The cause of the fire was found to be a drop-out fuse from high-tension power lines.
After the “Black Tuesday” fire Jim Rochford gathered together a group of locals and in October 1979, under Chief Fire Control Officer Cliff Parsons, a new era in the Hall Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade commenced. The new Brigade had 14 members.
The Brigade’s first vehicle, a 4WD Toyota Landcruiser, HALL 106, complete with pump and tank, was presented to the Brigade in November 1979 by Cliff Parsons. In 1982 the ACT Bush Fire Council presented the Brigade with a 1964 Bedford tanker, HALL 104, with a 3,825 litre (850 gallon) capacity and 138 Holden Grey 2.5 inch Delta Pump. HALL 104 was ‘retired’ in September 1990 to the neighboring NSW Wallaroo Brigade. HALL 160, an International Acco 510/A 4×4, nicknamed “the Billycart”, was also part of the Brigade’s response fleet at this time. Powered by a V8 petrol engine, HALL 160 had 2,000 litre (500 gallon) tank and was supported by an 8 horsepower Briggs & Stratton electric start pump.
In October 1990 the ACT Rural Fire Service determined shorter call signs would be more effective in radio communications and all of Hall’s vehicles were re-badged. These vehicles included HALL 10 (two separate vehicles with 1 in use today), HALL 11 (two separate vehicles with 1 in use today), HALL 20 (two separate vehicles with the final vehicle retired in 2010 and replaced with HALL 30) and HALL 21 (two separate vehicles with the final vehicle retired in 2012 and replaced with HALL 31).
After years of negotiations, a 3 door Fire Shed was erected in Loftus Street in 1985 and was officially opened by the then Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephens on April 19 1986. This was the first of the government-sponsored Fire Sheds here in the ACT. There are now 7 other Sheds. As the Brigade grew and its fleet of vehicles increased, the Shed was extended by 2 further smaller bays to support the Command vehicle and light units in 19xx.
In 1985 Hall approached the ACT Volunteer Brigades Association to host the first Field Day here in the ACT, believing Field Days would lift the training and operational standard of all ACT Brigades. The ACT’s involvement in large campaign fires, both here and interstate, over the years, has seemed to vindicate this belief in skills enhancement.
The Hall Brigade also designed and built the first “Quickfill” trailer which incorporates an independent motor-driven pump and ancillary equipment for the fast drafting of water from local rural water supplies to re-fill firefighting vehicles. This trailer can also be used to provide additional pumping capability in hose relays or in uphill hose lays. It is now standard issue across all ACT Brigades and in many parts of NSW and Victoria.
In the late1980s the Hall Brigade Executive felt there was a need to formally establish a Junior Brigade to provide a focus for young people in the area between the ages of 12 and 15 years to help them develop a sense of community awareness and provide them with training to assist their seamless transition to senior firefighting at 16 years of age. On 25th March 1996 Hall Brigade officially launched its Junior brigade.
Just over ten years later this commitment to juniors was vindicated during the January 2003 bushfires with 73% of the Hall RFS crews previously trained as juniors within the Brigade. In 2011 this service record was recognised with the Hall Juniors named the ACT’sYouth Citizens of the Year.
Today the Hall Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade boasts a steady membership base and a fleet of five 4WD tankers – 2 heavy, 2 medium, and 1 light units– for bushfire suppression.