70 Years on the Frontline
The Story of the Kurrajong Heights
Rural Fire Brigade

‘Good Fire Bad Fire’ traces the history of fire in our district from the First Peoples through to today and looks at our successes and our failures in trying to manage it. Happily, it is a story more of success with no houses on the Heights being lost to bushfire since the Brigade was formed in 1952.

Good fires are where we can do slow cool burns that produce wispy white smoke and a low flame height. This type of fire reduces fuel loads which helps to make our community safer, and also regenerates the bush. Fresh green grass grows again for our fauna. Good fires have been practiced for tens of thousands of years in this country and were created by our First Peoples.

Bad fires occur where no hazard reduction has taken place to regenerate the bush. The fire can be sparked by natural causes or can be manmade, and the fire quickly reaches the canopy. It cannot be extinguished by a fire hose.

Our book covers the early development of Kurrajong Heights both as an agricultural centre and also as a resort with people fleeing the heat and humidity to enjoy the 6-degree summer temperature difference to ‘down the bottom’. There was nothing like the current development back then with only a tiny number of people living on the mountain, but the devastation caused by fires prior to the formation of the Brigade in 1952 was significant.

Early equipment was very rudimentary, and it wasn’t until 1961 that we acquired the ex-Navy Land Rover that remains in our shed today.  We got an International truck in 1969 and that was all we had until 1988.

Building the fire shed was a massive undertaking with a portion of the funding needing to be raised from within the community. It was finished in 2002 and we had our official opening in 2004 with the Commissioner present.

The 99-page book covers all the major fires and the Brigade involvement in each. History certainly repeats itself with many of the same names coming up time and again and with most of the fires following similar paths towards our community from the Blue Mountains National Park to our West and the Wollemi National Park to our North.

In the early days the Brigade worked with the Council but in 1997 the Rural Fire Service was formed, Phil Koperberg was named Commissioner, and the Brigade started to learn to deal with bureaucracy!

Our Brigade helped found RAFT – the Remote Area Firefighting Team – and helped develop the methodology to fight fires in remote areas. They are dropped in by helicopter behind the fire front and fight fires using manual methods in areas that are not accessible by our tankers.

We have also developed Mosaic Burning where 18 different blocks around the Heights are burned on a rotational basis. A fire arriving from any direction will encounter a recently burned block which will slow the fire down and permit a back burn to be lit. This was the case with Gospers Mountain Fire.

There are lots of lessons to be learnt from Good Fire Bad Fire. We have enjoyed working with Karen Hodges as Fire Control Officer since her appointment in June 2000 and as she says in her foreword to the book ‘history is important as it enables us as a community to not only reflect on our past but also to learn from it.’

Good Fire Bad Fire is available from selected outlets in the district and direct from the Brigade.

It is essential reading for all in our community and for those in other districts who live and work with fire.