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Byron Shire
September 18, 2021

Main Arm fire brigade celebrates 75 years of community

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Owen Newell, whose father Garney Newell donated the land for the Main Arm fire station, Frank Mills OAM was FCO from 1969 to 1989, president Mick Pyke and captain Lance Hopson. Photo Aslan Shand.

Main Arm, like the whole region, has evolved and changed from the early days of timber cutters and dairy and banana farmers through the influx of tree hugging hippies in the 70s to what it is today. Standing as a testament to how these different communities have come together and accept one another is the Main Arm rural fire brigade (RFB),that last Saturday celebrated 75 years since it was first created in 1942.

The first meeting of the Main Arm bush fire brigade was held in Upper Main Arm at Tooland School ‘for the purpose of forming a volunteer bush fire brigade’ on November 23. The meeting was attended by 13 ‘citizens’ including ‘Mr E James, mayor of Mullumbimby’.

Reflecting the values of the time Constable Taylor, who addressed that first meeting, ‘pointed out the necessity of saving all the valuable timber and primary produce from bush fires and in case of enemy bombs being dropped,’ according to the official minutes.

‘This brigade is part of the community and the community is part of the brigade,’ said captain Lance Hopson as he spoke about the ethos of the Main Arm RFB and that was reflected with the appropriate mix of crew cuts, men with pony tails and women firies in the audience.

He highlighted how the community got behind the fire fighters during the six week blaze that burnt across Upper Main Arm last year supplying food and drinks to the fire fighters.

‘Special thanks goes to Main Arm store who ran a fundraiser following the fire, and to the 300 people from the community who attended.’

Soon to be 90 ex-councillor Frank Mills OAM, who was involved in the Main Arm RFB from his teenage years and was fire control officer (FCO) from 1969 to 1989, said with a chuckle ‘I sold this 400 acres to the hippies so you can blame me’ as he referred to the site of Kohinor Hall where the celebration was being held and that he had farmed in his younger days.

Humbling was the commitment of the locals who make up the fire brigade and in many cases had seen their own parents and grandparents play a key role in the brigade.

‘There have been many changes from population growth to the way the land is managed,’ said captain Hopson.

‘It is really gratifying to see young people stepping up and volunteering their time.’

If you are interested in finding out more about the rural fire services in your area find them online.


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