A HIGHLIGHT of the brigade open day held by Foster Fire Brigade last Sunday was the unveiling of the brigade’s historic fire bell in its new mounting which pays tribute to brigade members past and present.
Acting Regional Director Mark Potter and his family travelled from Sale especially for the commissioning of the bell, which until recently hung at the top of the hose drying tower, summoning fire fighters to their station.
The bell has now been refurbished and a new frame constructed, complete with a plaque and a sign which lights up.
In his speech to the assembled throng, among them long-time members Reg Williams and Russell ‘Rusty’ Williams, brigade captain David Jones outlined the history of the bell, drawing on information supplied by former brigade secretary Brian Greer.
The bell came to Foster in 1942 via steam train on the Great Southern Railway Line. It came from St Arnaud, where it was used for 65 years. Before that it was at Slaty Creek, about seven miles from St Arnaud, so it is well over 135 years old.
Whilst at St Arnaud the bell spent many years hanging from a pine tree in the market square. When there was a fire someone had to climb the tree and ring the bell with a piece of rope! According to the local paper, St Arnaud had two bells for a short period of time, and many St Arnaud locals believed that when this bell went to Foster, St Arnaud lost its best bell.
When the bell arrived in Foster in 1942, it was placed on one of two towers on the vacant block of land beside what was to become the second Foster Fire Station site – where the Commonwealth Bank is today. The bell remained at this site for some 13 years until the brigade moved to its present site next to the hall. The running tower and the bell tower were re-located to this site in 1955 and the bell remained on its light steel tower for another 22 years. Then the brigade received a hose drying tower second-hand from Bayswater Fire Brigade and the bell was placed at the top of this tower in November 1977.
Over the years, with the introduction of electricity and the installation of modern electrical sirens, bells such as this became largely redundant. Instead, the bell was used only on ceremonial occasions such as firemen’s funerals, when it was tolled as the funeral procession passed through town.
The bell remained in the tower until early last year when it was removed by the tower overseers – and claimed by Foster brigade members who thought it appropriate that it become part of a monument honouring CFA volunteers.
David Jones paid tribute to the many people who contributed to the commemorative bell structure. They include: Michael Austin, a past Foster brigade member who is now a brigade member at Korumburra and was responsible for the concrete cutting; brigade member Terry Williams, who carried out the trenching; electrician John O’Sullivan; Mick Shields of CFA Sale for his assistance in getting maps and other materials; local plumber Geoff Prain for fixing broken pipes found whilst digging the trench; Crs Jeanette Harding and Mohya Davies for supplying funding from their Councillor Discretionary Funds; Debbie Williams for sign writing; Harold Milkins of Wonthaggi for the plaque; Foster brigade members for the concrete construction; and Chris Mahomed for the steel construction.
David Jones and Mark Potter unveiled the bell and plaque and Captain Jones then called on two brigade life members, Fireman Reg Williams and 2nd Lieutenant Kaylene Jones to officially turn the light sign on.
The acting regional director congratulated the members of Foster Fire Brigade for their service to Foster and the region. “Such is your community involvement you should have a strong brigade here for many years to come,” added Mr Potter.