Past History of Fire on Raymond Island
Prior to European settlement of Raymond Island very little is known of the use of fire by the local aborigines of the Binnegarra Boul Boul family of the Tatungoloong tribe who inhabited Raymond Island.
There is also no documented history of major fires on Raymond Island up until the mid 19th century and therefore one could assume that there were no large fires of interest to be recorded.
From the early to mid nineteen hundreds, early settlers such as the Haylock and Medling families regularly undertook fuel reduction burning (early December) of both adjoining private bush properties and crown land.
1940 Fires and Formation of Paynesville, Eagle Point and Forge Creek Bush Fire Association
Following a hot and dry summer in 1939/40, in February 1940, a large wildfire burnt through Eagle Point, Romawi, Newlands Arm and Paynesville claiming lives and property.
The Paynesville Progress Association, the community group for Paynesville, called a public meeting to discuss the fires and the proposal for a fire brigade in the district.
In May 1940, the Paynesville, Eagle Point and Forge Creek Bush Fire Association was formed which today is known as the Paynesville Fire Brigade.
Prior to a fire brigade and essential fire fighting equipment, house fires in the district, including Raymond Island, were extinguished by the bucket brigade with water drawn from nearby house tanks, dams or the lake. Many homes were lost due to the lack of water, timber construction, limited communications and resources to form the bucket line.
Wildfires were usually left to take their own path of destruction and the areas burnt mopped up after the event.
1959 Fire on Raymond Island
In 1959 a campfire near Gravely Point escaped and fanned by a northerly wind spread across the entire width of the Island and was contained along the line of Eleventh Parade.
The fire reached the back of waterfront homes on Western Boulevard with no houses lost, some 2 miles (3.2km) of fencing destroyed and one hayshed.
The fire burnt some 300Ha and has been the largest wildfire recorded for Raymond Island.
Lack of fire prevention on both private and public land was noted in the CFA fire report.
Following the fire, the residents of Raymond Island requested to form their own Raymond Island Unit of the fire brigade as opposed to being under the Brigade at Paynesville.
This was declined by the Paynesville Fire Brigade.
Interestingly, once the koalas had been relocated to the Island in 1953, the Raymond Island Advancement League wrote to the Fisheries and Wildlife requesting that the koalas be removed due to the nature of the fire hazards and also asked for fire breaks and more fire prevention form the Shire and Conservation, Forests and Lands.
A Township Develops
During the 1960ís, the Island township started to develop and power and reticulated water were connected to the developed township and future subdivision areas.
Raymond Island was issued with a hydrant and hoses and knapsacks which were housed in stands at various locations.
The CFA members living on the Island at the time were Lindsay (ĎTigerí) Smith, Dave Shelton and George Bould.
With more people moving to the Island in the 1970ís, more enthusiastic men and women from Raymond Island joined the Paynesville Fire Brigade.
The CFA issued a Pump Trailer for Raymond Island in 1977 and it was housed in Dave Sheltonís carport.
Also in the same year, moves were made to form a Raymond Island Fire Brigade which was again denied by the Paynesville Fire Brigade.
A decision was made to raise funds for the purchase of a fire truck for Raymond Island which included an annual Boxing Day Collection at the ferry.
1978 Fires and Raymond Islandís First Fire Tanker
The 1978 fires on January 15th are the worst in the Brigadeís area, burning approximately 10,000 Ha (25,000 Acres) with severe loss of farmland, buildings, stock, fencing and loss of life. The fire was controlled at Eagle Point and Paynesville townships. Banksia Peninsula camps were destroyed.
With funds raised by collections, donations by local groups RIAL and Alanon, and donations to Paynesville Fire Brigade, a Bedford truck was purchased by the brigade in late 1978, fitted out by Eric Eaton at Paynesville and commissioned in early 1979.
The fire tanker was housed at Dave Mortonís house as there was no station on the Island.
At the same time the pump trailer was replaced by a hose trailer by the CFA.
During the late 1970ís, some of the ladies involved with the local Island groups raising funds for the Island Tanker became foundation members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Paynesville Fire Brigade.
All members of the Raymond Island Unit attended meetings and training at the Paynesville Fire Station.
As the ferry service closed at 7pm weeknights, they travelled by boat to and from Paynesville, in all weather conditions.
In 1980, the Conservation, Forests and Lands commenced the first official fuel reduction burning of 80 acres on the Island, however the fire, after extensive patrolling, managed to escape and burn out a further 100 acres.
Ash Wednesday Fires
The 1983 February Ash Wednesday fires east of Melbourne caused concern for Island residents as there was concern that a similar fire could impact on Raymond Island.
Through community meetings, a bushfire Evacuation Plan was formulated with Wardens selected from residents in strategic areas to alert and ensure the safety of their neighbors in the event of a bushfire.
An exercise was held with over 10 fire tankers from adjoining Brigades in the Bairnsdale Group proving successful until the ferry broke down stranding all on the Island.
First Fire Station on Raymond Island
In 1983, Paynesville opened a new fire station at the current site and the old station dismantled and erected on Raymond Island in Tenth Avenue.
The CFA is currently considering options for the upgrading of the station.
Fire Tanker Replacement
The Brigade-owned Bedford tanker was replaced in 1987 with an ex-CFA International Tanker previously, Metung CFA Tanker.
The unit was replaced with a temporary CFA-issued International Tanker in 2000 and again in 2001 before finally being issued with the current CFA Isuzu Tanker in 2004.
Protecting the Community of Raymond Island
Over the last few decades, the Raymond Island members of the Paynesville Fire Brigade have responded to many fires and incidents on the Island ranging from wildfires, house fires, chimney fires, car fires, boat fires, pole fires, motor vehicle accidents, helicopter crash, fuel leaks, illegal camp fires, sinking boats and fallen powerlines.
The role of all CFA Brigades is the protection of life and property and not just for fire. Often the Brigade is called upon to assist other agencies such as Police, Ambulance and the State Emergency Service.
In the event of floods the SES being committed to fast rising river flood waters, delegates the responsibility and management to the Paynesville CFA for the Paynesville and Raymond Island areas, such as the floods of 1990, 1998 and 2007.
The Raymond Island Fire Protection Plan (1994) was a joint project by the CFA, DSE and East Gippsland Shire Council and formed the basis for the annual fire management and clearing of fire breaks.
Paynesville CFA members often assist the EGSC with Municipal fire prevention on Raymond Island and work with both Parks and DSE with environmental and fire management burns.
The Brigade also has undertaken Environmental burns to private landholders, the Landcare Revegetation Project as well as the endangered Raymond Island Spider orchid sites.
Aware of the increasing number of people living on and visiting the Island from metropolitan areas, the Paynesville Fire Brigade has for many years provided fire awareness material to residents, delivered several Bushfire Blitzís and Community Fire Guard promotions and provided fire related brochures to visitors.
The tanker is regularly used to support operations during ferry chain replacement outages and breakdowns.
The Brigade is also represented on the Raymond Island Bushfire Committee.
In 2015, the Paynesville Fire Brigade will celebrate 75 years of voluntary service to the Paynesville and Raymond Island districts
The current membership numbers only five on Raymond Island and there is a definite need for further volunteer members to support our community fire brigade.
Training is held weekly on Tuesday nightís at the Paynesville Fire Station and anyone is most welcome to come along and consider becoming a volunteer member.
Paynesville Fire Brigade
A HISTORY OF THE FIRE BRIGADE ON RAYMOND ISLAND.
The press clippings are from:
The Margarite Wyeth collection
unless otherwise noted
An contribution by Andrew Bould June 2012
An extract about Jim & Margarite Wyeth from Midge Beesley's book Raymond Island
Paynesville and Raymond Island
Contributed by Andrew Bould