Until 1949 Bushfire Brigades managed fires in areas not proclaimed fire districts by the Fire Brigades Act (1909-1927) and serviced by the fire brigades of the Board of Fire Commissioners. Fire fighting services provided by the Board of Fire Commissioners extended through mainly urban areas with the Sydney region falling within the County of Cumberland, the cities of Newcastle and Wollongong, Blue Mountains and larger country towns.
The Bush Fires Act, 1949 (Act No.31, 1949 ) was assented to on 11 November 1949 and came into effect on 9 December 1949. (2) This legislation consolidated and modernised the law relating to the prevention, control and suppression of bush fires, and gave councils and other authorities wider powers to protect the areas under their control. The Bushfire brigades manned by volunteers and directed by their captains and deputy captains appointed by their local Councils were to continue (3) but group captains could now be appointed by shire and district councils or Ministers (4) to direct brigades formed by two adjoining councils.
The Act gave the Governor authority to proclaim Bush fire districts where no fire district had previously been proclaimed. A Bush Fire Fighting Fund was established for strengthening the volunteer bush fire brigade system. This was to be financed by insurance companies who contributed half the funds, and the remainder was supplied equally by state and local government. (5) The Act enabled the co-ordination of the activities of the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Forestry Commission and the Bush Fire Brigades. The Minister (for Local Government ) was empowered to appoint a person to take charge of all bush fire operations in a state of emergency. (6)
The Act also established the Bush Fire Committee which was to replace the Bush Fire Advisory Committee. Persons who immediately before the Bush Fires Act, 1949 were members of the Bush Advisory Committee were to continue in the new Committee (7) which was to comprise 20 members representing NSW Government departments, local government, the insurance industry, the farming community, the Board of Fire Commissioners, and the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau. The Bush Fire Committee was to have a standing committee comprised of a Chairman and five others who met at least once a month. (8)
The Bush Fire Committee with headquarters in Sydney advised the Chief Secretary and Minister for Local Government on all matters relating to bush fires, and generally coordinated the work of volunteer fire fighting groups and was responsible for community education relating to bushfires.
The Bush Fire Committee was replaced by the Bush Fire Council in 1970, by amendment to the Bush Fires Act (Act No.25, 1970), assented to on 8 April 1970 and proclaimed (except for section 4) on 5 June 1970. (9)
1. Australian Encyclopaedia, Vol. 2 p.204.
2. NSW Government Gazette, 1949 Vol. 2, p.3660.
3. Bush Fires Act 1949 (Act No.31, 1949) s.5.
4. Ibid. s.20.
5. Ibid. s.32.
6. Ibid. s.17.
7. Ibid. s.39.
8. Ibid. s.39 (6).
9. NSW Government Gazette, 1970 Vol. 2, p.2110.
References: Concise Guide 2nd Edition 1992.