old and the new: Scotland Island fire station,
showing the previous and the current names of
This edition of the PON
looks at Scotland Island Rural Fire Brigade: past,
present and future. With June marking the 30th
anniversary of the opening of the fire shed, we look
back at the brigade's early years. August's AGM saw
the departure of some familiar faces, plus some new
arrivals. And with the start of the fire season only
weeks away, we need to think about how best to support
the brigade during the summer ahead.
All in all, it's time
for a PON firies special. This edition is dedicated to
all those selfless individuals who devote, and have
devoted, their time and energy to Pittwater's offshore
brigades. You, ladies and gentlemen, are the backbone
of our community.
prior to the AGM, crews were conducting hazard
reduction burns at Pathilda Reserve and on the
east side of Elizabeth Park
Never was there an AGM like it! Normally held in the fire
shed in June, the meeting had been postponed due to the
COVID lockdown. But postponement meant pushing the AGM
into HRB season. ‘HRB’ refers to hazard reduction burning,
the practice of conducting controlled burns so as to
reduce bushland fuel load. There are very few days in the
year when weather conditions permit HR burns. And with the
fire season only weeks away, it became clear that neither
the AGM nor the island’s much-needed burns could be
delayed much longer.
With limited time, the solution was to hold the two on the
same day. On the morning of 22 August, teams from Scotland
Island Rural Fire Service conducted two separate burns.
The first was on the upper part of Pathilda Reserve and an
adjoining vacant block. The second was along the eastern
periphery of Elizabeth Park. Then, with the burns well
under control, it was time for the AGM which, due to
COVID, had to be held entirely online.
Despite the challenging circumstances, all formalities
were properly observed, thanks to Graeme Crayford's adept
chairing. These are the main points that arose:
boat similar to the one Scotland Island
expects to acquire within the next 6-12 months
Three awards were announced:
- Out of the Northern Beaches' 14 brigades, Scotland
Island's was confirmed as the second busiest in terms
of number of incidents dealt with.
- Scotland Island brigade is called out more than once
a week. Bush fires account for only a small proportion
of the calls. Because the brigade has a boat, it is
frequently asked to help with boat fires, as well as
fires on the mainland's foreshores which require boat
- The most common type of call is to help with storm
damage, typically fallen trees and branches.
- The brigade serves the community in many other ways.
For instance, it assisted in the supply of drinking
water to the top of the island when there was
inadequate pressure in the water line. It also
provided the water needed to mix concrete for island
- On average the brigade's CFRs (community first
responders) are called out once every 10 days to deal
with medical emergencies. Last year there was an
unusually large number of calls relating to fractures
or mental health issues.
- Even though the pandemic has hindered the brigade's
training and community engagement activities, normal
life went on as much as possible. For instance, a
highly successful dinner was held in May during a lull
in COVID restrictions.
- The brigade should receive its new boat within the
next 6-12 months.
- At around the same time the brigade is due to
receive an all-terrain vehicle which should assist
with navigating the island’s narrow roads.
- the fire shed now has a new kitchen and the interior
has been repainted.
Gaines: 2021's CFU Member of the Year
Burke: Community First Responder of the
- Firefighter of the Year award goes to Tom
Laslett. Besides being active in the island
brigade, Tom (pictured below) contributes to the RFS
at district level. His particular interests are in
training and recruitment.
- CFU Member of the Year is Alan Gaines. The
CFU (Community Fire Unit) is a vital component in the
island's fire defences and Alan is among its most
- Community First Responder of the year is Maria
Burke. Maria, a qualified paramedic, has been
part of the CFR team for over two years.
Towards the end of the meeting a fresh management team was
elected, as detailed below.
The brigade needs new members. In particular, the
following positions remain vacant:
If you feel able to become an operational member then
please let the brigade know. Membership of the CFU only
requires a few hours' training. To find out more or to
join the brigade visit the brigade website (www.sirfb.org.au) or contact the
captain (Peter Lalor) on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- training officer
- station officer
new management team
joined the Scotland Island brigade in 2012, first
serving as deputy captain. He has been captain
As captain, Peter is in charge of the brigade's
operations. These include not only fire fighting
but also dealing with storm damage, medical
emergencies, and assisting other agencies and
members of the public as appropriate.
Senior Deputy Captain
known within the community as 'Whitey', Ian has
been a member of the brigade for 25 years. He
served as captain from 2011-14 and again in 2016.
As well as brigade senior deputy captain, Whitey
will lead the island's 11 Community First
Responders (CFRs), who assist with medical
emergencies. He is a retired teacher and local
| Deputy Captain 1
Point resident Craig Laslett has been a member of
the brigade since 2014.
Besides his contributions to brigade activities
around Pittwater, Craig is involved in the RFS at
a district level, where his work focuses on
community preparedness for bush fire.
| Deputy Captain 2
son, Tom is also involved in the RFS at a district
level, his particular interest being the Service's
Indeed Tom was, until recently, the island
brigade's training officer, and will continue to
act in that capacity until a replacement can be
has lived at the top of the island since 2006 and
qualified as a bush firefighter in 2014. Within
the brigade he is, to date, probably best known as
a barman at fire shed dinners. Roy also edits the
Before retiring, Roy taught law at Macquarie
secretary, Michelle will be responsible for
minuting the brigade's monthly meetings (which all
members are welcome to attend) and helping with
the considerable paperwork generated by a busy
Michelle is mother to musician Jeremy, one of the
brigade's operational and active firefighters.
has kindly agreed to continue as brigade
treasurer, a role she has splendidly fulfilled
over the last seven years. Lara will keep an eye
on the brigade's much-needed revenue from
fundraising activities. Lara is also a qualified
Sadly, Lara no longer lives on the island, having
moved to Newport two years ago.
| Social Secretary
moved onto Scotland Island in 2006. A popular
island socialite, it's hard to imagine anyone
better equipped to throw a good party. If you want
to organise a fire shed dinner, Lizzie is the
person to talk to.
A mother of two, Lizzie works as a landscape
| Equipment Officer
contributions to the brigade stretch back over 20
years. He has been president,
treasurer and secretary. An accomplished
guitarist, John often performs at shed dinners
alongside his group The Stickmen.
Now he has undertaken to keep the brigade's vital
equipment in working order.
|First Aid Officer
being a Community First Responder, Kylie is
responsible for ensuring adequate first aid
provisions for operational firefighters.
Kylie, herself a qualified bush firefighter, also
looks after medical provisions for the CFR team.
With sadness we bid farewell to two committed RFS
members who are leaving the island as well as the
It was characteristic of Graeme’s devotion to
the brigade that he ran its 2021 AGM, despite it
being his last day on the island, having
recently sold his house near Bells.
Graeme joined the brigade in 2011 and has been
an active member throughout the last decade.
Serving first as secretary, Graeme became vice
president in 2013. Then for the last six years
he has been its president.
Graeme's commitment to the brigade went well
beyond the standard obligations of president.
Graeme was an active firefighter, regularly
attending brigade operations. He was also a
diligent member of the brigade's CFR (Community
First Responders) team, and was often the first
on the scene of medical emergencies.
Besides the RFS, Graeme engaged in community
life in other ways. He was instrumental in
managing the community vehicle, which he
regularly drove. He was also a member of SIRA's
Roads, Drainage and Environment Sub-Committee,
where he provided effective liaison between SIRA
and the fire brigade.
Graeme, the island is indebted to you. We hope
you enjoy your new home on McMahons Point.
completed her service to the island brigade in the
capacity of both social secretary and station
officer. These positions she fulfilled with
energy. Annette was also an active member of the
CFU (Community Fire Unit), regularly attending
As station officer, Annette oversaw extensive
improvements to the fireshed: the painting of
its internal walls and the installation of a new
kitchen. As social secretary, Annette helped
organise a number of dinners and other
functions. But she helped in less conspicuous
ways, for instance often being first at the shed
to open up the doors in the event of an
Annette's contributions to the island community
extended beyond the RFS. She regularly helped out
at Island Players performances. What's more, she
administered TUG (Tennis Users Group), the
collective of residents who tie up at Tennis Court
Wharf. Besides managing the group's affairs,
Annette was an invaluable guardian of residents'
boats, often acting as a lookout for any
succumbing to heavy rain.
Annette is moving to Elanora Heights after over
30 years as a stalwart of the island community. We
wish her well.
not leaving the island, but he is stepping down from
the brigade's management team, having served as
brigade secretary for the last four years.
Outside the brigade, Geoff is best known for
his contribution to the offshore music scene. A
singer, songwriter and pianist, Geoff has
recorded over 20 albums and written two books.
Known to some of the island's younger
inhabitants as the White Wiggle, he was a
popular performer at the kindy, while older
audiences will have seen him with partner Tina
Harrod and his group The Stickmen performing at
fire shed dinners.
Stuart Laughton is stepping down as equipment
officer, the person responsible for ensuring
that the brigade's firefighting gear is kept is
good order. Stuart served in that position on
and off over the last few years. Stuart remains
living on top of Scotland Island and promises to
remain involved in brigade activities as an
Stuart served in the Australian military for
many years. Since 1994 he has devoted much of
his time to hunting and culling feral wild pigs
and hogs. He runs a YouTube channel 'Hunting
with Stu', which has over 200,000 subscribers
and has attracted international media attention.
From time to time Stu also organises kayaking
trips around Pittwater.
Part I: the early years
(1955 - 1965)
Island's original fire shed, which stood at
Tennis Court Wharf.
This photo was probably taken during the
1980s. By then the shed had been considerably
From the very beginning bush
fire fighting in New South Wales was rooted in
community. And that's still the case today. The Rural
Fire Service, a government agency, oversees fire
operations. But it has always been groups of unpaid
locals who actually douse the flames. What’s more, the
RFS was not established until 1997, while volunteer
brigades, often woefully ill-equipped, had started to
form over a century earlier.
as recorded on the honours board in the
current shed's kitchen
In the case of Scotland
Island, its brigade was founded in 1955. Its origins
could hardly have been humbler. Initially set up in
someone’s living room, the brigade began as an offshoot
of the Scotland Island Progress Association, as SIRA was
then known. Indeed it was at SIPA’s second meeting that
the motion was passed to form a brigade, with SIPA
office holders intended to oversee its affairs.
Today’s western foreshore and
island brigades have a combined total of two boats and
five (soon to be six) land vehicles at their disposal.
Scotland Island began with nothing. In those days it was
left to local authorities to supply brigades. And so a
SIPA delegation was sent to Warringah Council, who
‘reluctantly’ assented to £490 worth of supplies:
basically a pump, some hose and 20 knapsack sprays. £490
approximates to $17,000 in today’s money. The collective
value of the fire fighting equipment on the island today
runs well into six figures.
Included in the £490 grant from Warringah was £75 for
building material. Adjusted for inflation, that’s less
than $3,000 today. With this the brigade was expected to
build a fire shed using voluntary labour. But the
community mustered its forces and within months a shed was
erected close to the shore at Tennis Court Wharf, near
where the playground swings stand today.
Bear in mind too that in the early years the island
brigade was expected to look after Elvina and Lovett
Bays: West Pittwater brigade came later. But a request
for funding for a pump to be based on the western
foreshores was rejected by Warringah on the basis that
those areas fell under the domain of Kuring-gai Chase
old fire shed as it stood in 1976
The shed then grew by a
number of extensions, finding uses as de facto community
centre and playschool. (The present hall wasn’t finished
until 1982 and the kindy building followed in 1989.)
Unfortunately the location of
the shed, below a steep bank, meant that it was subject
to land slippage. Older residents might remember being
called upon to attend the shed with bucket and mop to
clean up the mess.
Today you will find five fire boxes dotted around the
island, each equipped with a pump, hoses and other
supplies. Each cost over $10,000 to install and equip.
Sixty years ago things were a
little different. The brigade’s early firefighting
strategy was to locate a dozen knapsack sprays (each
costing $160 in today’s money) at homes around the
island: approximately one spray for every 10 houses. The
owners of these homes were expected to ensure that the
sprays were easily accessible to their neighbours,
should they be absent at the time of need.
original shed next to Tennis Court Wharf,
photographed in 1979
We must remember that at the
time of the brigade’s foundation the island had less
than 100 houses, with very few permanent residents.
Obviously today’s RFS is far better equipped because it
serves a much larger island population.
But some things never
change, most of all the need for strong community
support for local brigades. What’s most noticeable from
island archives is that back in the 1950s every
able-bodied man was expected to play a role in the
Today women also play an essential part in the RFS: the
Service is committed to principles of equality and there
is no gender requirement for fire fighting. But in the
1950s women had very specific roles to fulfill. Back
then women weren’t even permitted to join SIPA, let
alone the brigade.
Women were, at least, invited
to attend early SIPA and brigade meetings. Provided, of
course, they feed the men. Interestingly, the ‘ladies’
were expected to ‘bring a plate’, while the ‘gentlemen’
were invited to ‘bring a bottle of their choice’. In
terms of broader society, one wonders how much has
This brief history of the brigade draws principally
on SI News archives and will be continued in
future editions of the PON.
There's no prize this time, but this quiz is a chance to
test your fire knowledge. How much do you know about fire
behaviour, the island brigade, and your responsibilities
when it comes to such things as pile burns in your garden?
To access this anonymous, multiple-choice quiz of ten
questions, click here.
Sunday 5 September
Scotland Island receives two garden vegetation collections
Please present your
vegetation in tied bundles and/or hard sided
containers. Place out a maximum of 2 cubic
metres per collection per household.
Material presented in plastic, nylon or hessian bags,
cardboard or foam boxes and untied bundles will not be
Leaf litter, prunings and cuttings placed in hard sided
Branches no longer than 1.2m and no thicker than 75mm,
tied into manageable bundles with twine
Cut-up palm fronds, tied and bundled
Large tree stumps
Painted / treated timber
This is not the same as the fine fuel collection.
MATERIAL PLACED OUT IN BULKA BAGS
WILL NOT BE COLLECTED
A private contractor should be engaged to remove such
bags. Please decant your material into hard-sided
containers or tied bundles.
It has not yet been confirmed whether Northern Beaches
Council will organise a fine fuels collection this spring.
Place materials on the roadside no later than 6am, Sunday
Deadline for submissions:
The Pasadena at Church
Point has applied to Liquor & Gaming NSW for an
extension of their alcohol sales licence. The purpose of
the application is to permit the Pasadena to sell
alcohol in the shop adjoining Thomas Stephens Reserve.
Details of the application
can be found here
. If you download the plan
(under 'supporting documents') then the blue line
encompasses the area where alcohol may currently be sold
and the red line indicates the area which is the subject
of the application.
Submissions to Liquor &
Gaming NSW supporting or opposing the application may be
sent via the same site. The deadline for submission is
The inaugural Scotland
Island Swim, a circumnavigation of the island, is
postponed due to COVID. The swim had been due to take
place on 12 September.
A new date will be announced as soon as possible,
perhaps in the late spring or summer.
Join our WhatsApp Swimming Group if a summer swim is
more your thing.
For sale: a pair of bunk
beds, which can also be used as two single beds.
Great condition: very
Text Nicole: 0426 162 843
Wanted: a landline phone
handset - maybe you don't use yours anymore?
Jenny Cullen: 0406 806 648
WANTED: small cottage or boat shed near water to rent for
6 - 12 months from October or end of lockdown.
Reasonable rent offered.
Wanted by a retired, active couple who have lived on
Scotland Island before and are keen to return as soon as
possible after lockdown lifts. We are willing to wait
until the end of the year if necessary.
Robyn and Phil
0435 758776 or 0414 604748.
Missed out on a previous
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expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the
views of the Scotland Island Residents Association
(SIRA), or the Western Pittwater Community