Basket Range Brigade History

Basket Range CFS – A History

On 14 February 1966 a fire broke out in Peter Cranwell’s garage at Basket Range and in 20 minutes the building was burnt to the ground. There was nothing effective in the area to extinguish what was an extremely hot fire.

In 1967 there was a drought, resulting in a shortage of water in tanks and creeks. A record rainfall of 64 inches was recorded in 1968. By the end of that year prolific growth of vegetation in the Hills presented an enormous threat to landholders in the event of fire. These events provided a catalyst for the formation of an Emergency Fire Service in Basket Range.

Messrs Bill Cramond and Kingsley Moyle approached Doug Bishop with regard to organising a meeting to discuss the matter. A public meeting was held on 5 December 1968 in the Basket Range Hall with 15 residents attending. The Acting-Chairman was Doug Bishop.

There were five brigades in the East Torrens Council area in 1968. Norton Summit/Ashton Brigade began operations in 1945, Carey Cully in 1955, Summertown and Districts, Montacute and Cherryville were formed in 1958, as was Lenswood in the Onkaparinga Council District.

Having outlined the Emergency Fire Services available in the Council area, the Chairman said that “If a unit was formed in Basket Range it would complete a chain of protection for the whole district”. Mr. Bill Bishop moved that immediate steps be taken to form an Emergency Fire Service organisation at Basket Range, and David Cramond seconded the motion which was carried unanimously.

A Committee of Management was appointed to proceed with the work of forming an E.F.S.27 Members elected were Messrs D.A. Bishop (Chairman), W.A. Cramond (Secretary/Treasurer) and Messrs C. Goldfinch, D. Cramond, P. Cranwell and D. Watson. Doug Watson was also Fire Control Officer, having been appointed in 1955 by the East Torrens District Council.
Basket Range Unit 9

The Basket Range E.F.S. Brigade was formed, and in 1969 a second-hand Landrover was purchased for $1200, with A.W. Cramond & Son lending the money. Bishop Orchards donated a tank and hoses. Graham Goldfinch and John Babi converted the fully-enclosed vehicle into a fire unit, and this was temporarily housed in Cramond’s shed. Donations, which included the proceeds from a New Year’s Eve Dance held in the Hall, raised $704 for the Unit.

Basket Range Unit 9
Basket Range Unit 9

The Unit and crew attended their first major fires in the areas of Basket Range, Ashton and Skye in April 1970, and according to Unit Commander, Kingsley Moyle, “earned high praise for themselves in carrying out their duties”

A permanent home for the Unit was needed and in November 1970 the Chairman addressed the Annual General Meeting of the Hall Committee “on the need to have the E.F.S. in a central place within the town”. The proposed site for a fire shed at the northern end of the Hall was approved, and permission was granted to set up part of the Hall basement as a fire control room.

Hunter Brothers excavated the shed site and John McDougall designed the building. The E.F.S. Committee and helpers did most of the work on the building, except for the walls and floor, which were contracted out. The building was completed

In 1975 the Basket Range Unit was represented in the Grand Parade at the Uraidla Show for the first time. Later that year, the Unit and crew joined other units on the District Council’s annual fire track inspection.

The State Government in 1976 removed the E.F.S. from the jurisdiction of the Police Department and declared it a Statutory Body under its own Act of Parliament, the Country Fires Act. This meant that the Country Fire Service (C.F.S.) became an autonomous body with direct Government funding.

With major mechanical troubles occurring in the Landrover, it was becoming increasingly evident that another fire unit was needed. The committee met frequently in 1980-81 to discuss the size and type of unit needed, and much time was spent by members individually investigating suitable vehicles.

It was ascertained that a new fire-fighting body could be built onto a second-hand chassis by Phil Wotton (Engineering) at Carey Gully. This was acceptable to a majority of members. Applications were made to the East Torrens District Council and C.F.S. Headquarters for grants and subsidies. The truck was ordered in October 1981.

The new fire unit was delivered in March 1982 but, because of its extra length, the unit had to be temporarily stored in Bill Cramond’s shed until alterations could be made to the shed doors.

A full training programme under the newly appointed Brigade Captain, David McGowan, swung into action in 1983. This included new drills to deal with house and vehicular fires, chemical fires and the rescue of trapped and injured people.

The new truck was fully operational by the time Ash Wednesday occurred on Wednesday 16 February 1983. The siren went at 3.00pm that day and both units were quickly manned. The first call went to the Landrover to go to the corner of Nicols and Greenhill Roads to try and prevent the fire from spreading to Basket Range. Ian Hockham was the attending Fire Control Officer. The Unit and crew were successful in their endeavours.

Within minutes, the larger Unit was despatched to Ashton under the command of David McGowan. This was the only fire truck within a four kilometre radius. Once, fire swept over the truck and the firemen on the back had to spray each other with hoses to avoid being burnt. The crew saved seven houses between Ashton and Norton Summit. The only fireman from the crew to suffer an injury was Wayne Hockham when burning embers hit his eye.

The Brigade Captain’s report from the 1982-83 fire season reads in part:

The past season has been an eventful one for all C.F.S. trucks and a significant one for Basket Range. We began the season with a new truck, a new Captain and an untried crew. We pass into the next season with an experienced team of firemen, and tried and useful appliances.

At the beginning of 1984 the Basket Range crew and members were given a Saturday training session with the State Rescue Helicopter. They asked to be taught how to winch to safety people who were trapped in their homes during a major fire, particularly applicable to Basket Range’s steep terrain. Unfortunately the financial allocation for this scheme was later transferred from the C.F.S. to the National Parks and Wildlife Service which undertook to train their own men.

The Basket Range C.F.S. has been funded by subsidies from the East Torrens District Council and C.F.S. Headquarters, district fund-raisers and donations. Fundraisers since 1980 have included two Orchid Festivals held in the Hall. These were organised by the C.F.S. and its Auxiliary, with Mrs Evelyn Coghlan providing the orchid display, and cut-flowers for sale were supplied by the late Miss May Burdett and Dave Rutt. Donations included $250 from the Lions Club, $160 from the Hall Committee, $800 from proceeds of a luncheon and dinner, as well as donations from residents.

Guest speakers from C.F.S. Headquarters have attended three out of four C.F.S. dinners. In 1983, Mr Lloyd Johns (then C.F.S. Director) and the late Harry Wotton (former Chairman of East Torrens District Council) jointly commissioned the new unit. It was at this dinner that Life Membership was bestowed on Doug Watson.

The Captain’s Report at the 1984 A.G.M. mentioned that the Landrover had to be replaced because it could no longer function as a reliable fire unit. C.F.S. members once again began assessing vehicles for their suitability as fire units. Eventually they decided to design their own. A Toyota Hilux twin-cabin truck was ordered at a cost of $11,000. The C.F.S. members wanted a large cabin that was fully enclosed and could hold all the crew if the vehicle became trapped in a fire.

Members of the Brigade, especially Brigade President Bob Butler, Messrs Les Gullickson, Bryce Watson and Rod Hutchison spent many hours constructing the fire unit, which incorporates a high pressure pump, fibre glass tank, and a range of fire extinguishers to cope with electrical, chemical and LPG fires.

The Toyota had its initiation during the Teringie fires in March 1985, although it was not then fully equipped. In May, the newly-appointed Director of the C.F.S. , Mr Don McArthur, commissioned the new unit and officially handed over the keys to the Brigade Captain at the annual dinner.

The C.F.S. has provided every household in Basket Range with a map reference tag which clips onto the telephone cord. Information from this can be relayed to all emergency services to enable them to quickly locate a fire or accident. This is the first time that these tags have been used in the East Torrens Council District.

Basket Range C.F.S. training covers identification of households and the availability of water, a knowledge of tracks and roads throughout the district, map reading, familiarisation with fire-fighting equipment, radio procedure, first aid, how to deal with spillage of hazardous chemicals, LPG fires, electrical fires, house and shed fires, driver training and practice. In its 16 years of operation, the Basket Range C.F.S. has contributed much towards making the district a safer place in which to live.

Emergency Fire Service Auxiliary

In 1970 the Basket Range E.F.S. asked the local Red Cross Branch to be an Auxiliary to them and supply tea and sandwiches during bushfires. The Red Cross accepted, and notified Red Cross Headquarters who donated two large hilly cans, two dozen enamel mugs and two first aid kits to the newly formed Auxiliary. These were used during the 1970 bushfires at Basket Range, Ashton and Skye and other fires during the ensuing

The Red Cross office bearers were also the office bearers of the E.F.S. Auxiliary. In 1971 the Auxiliary organised a luncheon and mannequin parade in the Hall to raise money for the E.F.S.

In June 1980 the Auxiliary decided to disband, as the members felt that outside organisations, such as the Salvation Army could provide catering during a major fire.

On Wednesday 16 February 1983 a major fire did occur — Ash Wednesday II. Basket Range families were called upon to provide dozens of sandwiches and drinks for firefighters from Basket Range and surrounding districts.

Less than six weeks after the fires, a meeting was called to form a new C.F.S. Auxiliary. Office bearers elected were: President, Nancy Horsnell; Vice-President, Alison Cranwell, and Secretary/Treasurer, Molly McDougall.

Since then, the C.F.S. and the Auxiliary have organised several annual dinners and an Orchid Festival to raise money for equipment. In two years the C.F.S. Auxiliary has provided three first aid kits, new plastic cups and drink bottles, sheets, blankets and portable radios for use by the C.F.S.


Numerous bushfires have occurred in the Basket Range area since white settlement, the most significant being the fires of 1939 and 1955.

For two weeks in early January 1939, Adelaide experienced temperatures in excess of 100″F (37.80C). The heat-wave climaxed with a recorded 117″F (47.20C). Leafy vegetables suffered scorching no matter how much they were watered. It was too hot to work and because night-time temperatures barely dropped, many slept out of doors. One gardener said that it was the first time he had to sit in the packing-shed because it was too hot to work!

Over the two-week period a number of small fires burned in the area without causing any great damage. However, on the day 117″F was recorded, a major fire did occur and burnt properties from Range Road to Deviation Road.

The devastating fire of 2 January 1955, the Black Sunday Bushfire, caused immense damage throughout the Adelaide Hills. Fortunately only part of the Basket Range area was affected but those orchardists whose properties were burnt suffered severe losses.

The fire came into Basket Range from the north along Sixth and Deep Creeks and burnt the north and north-eastern portion of the district, destroying orchards and pine plantations.

Properties that were extensively burnt included those near Marble Hill, the Marble Hill Blocks, Burdetts and Hockhams near Sheoak Hill, Bishops, Brocks, Parks and properties to the east of Deviation Road.

Although no houses were destroyed at Basket Range (quick action probably saved two from being burnt) many sheds and orchard equipment were destroyed.
Excerpt from ‘Tier on Tier’ Geoffrey C. Bishop & Roz McGowan

Photographs courtesy Peter Jarman