Brigade History


Fire has always been a threat to Penrose because of its magnificent native forests, the orchards and the plantation pines.  On 14th January 1939, a hapless camper at Paddy’s River near the Highway started a devastating fire that wiped out 800Ha (2,000 acres) of plantation pine, the cottages within the plantation, orchards and much of the village. This fire destroyed 14 homes, the church, the hall, the Penrose Cooperative packing shed, the general store, the “Gum Nut” tea room, the pulping factory and two shops.  Despite the fact that this was a time when the village was larger than it is today, there was very little in the way of fire fighting equipment except for some rakes, knapsacks and beaters. 

In a letter to the edtor of the Sydney Morning Herald on 23rd January 1939 from Penrose Brigade captain HS Paine the situation was vividly described:

"Much criticism has been expressed about the lack of bushfire organisation. As captain of the Penrose Bushfire Brigade I have no hesitation in stating that all the organisation in the country could not have stopped or controlled the devastating fire that swept through the State pine forest and destroyed Penrose. Had there been an adequate supply of water available something more might have been done towards saving the houses but with billows of flame sweeping through the tree-tops scores of feet into the air and with burning pine needles and billing fragments being carried overhead by the howling gale all firefighting organisation was rendered futile."

Fire struck again in 1965, severely effecting Tallong and Wingello and completely burning out the State Forest and many orchards and properties.  This time however, only one house in Penrose was destroyed in Teudts Road.

Since then, many improvements have ensured that Penrose is a much safer place including the establishment of a much improved Penrose Rural Fire Brigade and the drilling for bore water to supplement household tank supplies. In 1965, a fire shed was built on Kareela Rd consisting of 2 separate sheds, which was reconstructed in 2008 with the help of brigade fundraising to provide three vehicle bays to suit the more modern fire fighting appliances. 

An auxiliary was formed on 20th January, 1967 to provide food to the brigade during incidents and to raise money for equipment for catering and fire fighting through the Pine Festival, an annual Spring Flower Show and an annual Art Exhibition.

Penrose Bush Fire Brigade operated under the 1949-1971 Bush Fire acts and funding was provided by Wingecarribee local council and fundraising by members.
In 1974, a fire shed was built on Kareela Rd consisting of 2 separate sheds; Warren Cush from Penrose Pine mill donated the concrete for the floors.  The Fire Control Officer Mr E.M. Moore officially opened the Shed.
In late 1980 the brigade had a four wheel drive cat 1 Bedford with 4800 litre tank and a two wheel drive Cat 2 Bedford with a 4800 litre tank, a Toyota 12 man Troop carrier and a Pump trailer donated by the ladies auxiliary. In 1997 the new replacement Cat1 Isuzu Tanker arrived  along with a Ford Cat 9 Striker to replace the two Bedford’s,  In  2005 the Striker was replaced by a CAT 7 Mitsubishi  1100 litre tanker.

Water is a problem in Penrose as there is no town water; the brigade has 4 tanks with a total capacity on 90,000 litres.

In 1997 the Brigade had a name change due to the Rural Fire Service Act and we became known as the Penrose Rural Fire Service Brigade.  The Penrose Rural Fire Service remains a vital service protecting the community and responding to bush fires, motor vehicle accidents on the highway and surrounds and structural fires.  In addition, the brigade members provide hundreds of hours of volunteer service to the many community events in Penrose and the Wingecarribee shire.  Its members have proudly served around NSW and interstate in fire fighting capacity and provide valuable advice and education to the local community. They also conduct ongoing hazard reduction work around the Penrose village, and assist with hazard reduction work in Wingecarribee and surrounding shires.

In 2009, a 30 x 12 metre new steel shed was constructed at a cost of $60,000 to replace the old sheds. This was achieved by the brigade fundraising and a Rural Fire Service grant to provide three vehicle bays to suit the more modern fire fighting appliances.

Acknowledgements: Lesley Day, A Village Called Penrose 1987,Frank Davenport Snr, Wingecarribee Council, Sydney Morning Herald.


Did You Know?

Brigade Captains

Longest serving captains

John Luke
11 years
Frank Davenport snr
12 years