By Michael Doran
In 1943 Wandin was a small rural town of one thousand people, two state schools, a general store, a blacksmith and a train line passing through town.
That year the Wandin Fire Brigade was formed and on 10 November a dinner was held to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
The history of the brigade is built around two main foundations – the commitment of the Wandin community and the presence of Les Sharp, aka The Oracle, who has been there since 1958.
Brigade Captain, Tim Michelson, opened the dinner with a potted history of the brigade. He spoke about how the brigade has always been there for both Wandin and other regions, both in Victoria and interstate.
Some of the milestones along the way have been the 1962 Christmas Hills and Dandenongs fires,Hurstbridge in 1969 and Ash Wednesday in 1983. “On Black Saturday in 2009 Wandin was instrumental in saving lives and property across the Yarra Valley,” he said.
With growing numbers of cars came increasing accidents, which lead Wandin to set-up a Road Rescue Unit in 1963, in spite of opposition from both the CFA and Government.
“Forty percent of the brigades turnout was for road rescue and it became police policy to always call Wandin if anyone was trapped, even beyond our allocated CFA boundaries.”
Les Sharp then came to the stage, accompanied by his wife Nola, to accept his award for 60 years service.
Presenting the award Tim Mathieson said “Les started with the brigade in 1959, served as Captain between 1985 to 2005 and is still on the executive committee of the Road Rescue Association.”
“Today we take another bow and congratulate Les for his well deserved 60 year life membership medal. Thank you Les for your never tiring commitment to the Wandin fire brigade, to the CFA and your community and to me.”
In looking back Les Sharp said, “Things have changed a lot. On my first day we didn’t do any training, just had a cup of coffee but now you have to do 20 hours just to get on the truck.”
“The biggest change is having women in the fire brigade, you gotta behave yourself when you go out now,” he said. “I’ll get Nola to thank everyone now.”
In his address Tim Michelson spoke of what made the brigade great. “In my view the beginning of this brigade set the solid foundation for all that have followed, including the foresight and strong leadership that has always been apparent throughout this proud brigades 75 year history”