Willys Fire Trucks in Australia


Blue Mountains Bush Fire Jeeps

Rural Fire Service
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is the world's largest volunteer firefighting organization. It was formed in 1997 to provide a single command structure for the many bushfire brigades in the state. This allowed the kind of massive firefighting response (150K JPEG) required when unusually large fires hit the Blue Mountains district in 2013. (AAP photo by Dan Himbrechts from 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires.)

Jamison Valley by David IliffBlue Mountains, just west of Sydney, is one of the most bushfire-prone areas in New South Wales -- in the world in fact. The Jamison Valley (2008 photo at right by David Iliff, under CC) was the starting point for one of the disastrous fires of 1957 which encircled Sydney, and devastated the town of Leura. (See the front page of The Sydney Sun from 2 December 1957, courtesy of the Blue Mountains Library.)

Fires like the one that destroyed Leura eventually led to the formation of the NSW Rural Fire Service.

1972This CJ-3B labelled as "BMCC Bush Fire Vehicle" was operated by the Blue Mountains City Council prior to the formation of the RFS. This slide taken in Katoomba (a mile west of Leura) in 1972 shows the Jeep with a Land Rover also carrying a sign saying "Bush Fire Control." See the full photo (600K JPEG) courtesy of the Blue Mountains Library. I would like to find more details or photos of this Jeep.

The right-hand-drive Jeep has a canvas water bag on the front, to keep drinking water cool by evaporation -- thanks to David Mercer for identifying that. It's difficult to see whether the Jeep is carrying any firefighting equipment.

2006An earlier jeep used in the area was photographed by Wayne Ellard in 2006. It had been used briefly by the Blaxland Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, established in the 1950s with support from the Blue Mountains City Council.

The military-surplus MB was already fairly ancient when the Brigade obtained it in February 1967 to serve as a personnel carrier and to pull a tank trailer with gas-driven pump, as Blaxland's second attack unit. The jeep was replaced only two years later by a short wheelbase ex-army Land Rover.

Country Fire Authority Jeep Trucks

The Country Fire Authority in the state of Victoria was formed in 1945 to manage bushfire suppression across the state, and now comprises over 1,200 fire brigades.

1957 simulationFrom 1956 until 1984 the CFA employed a number of unique Willys tanker trucks in the protection of lives and property across Victoria.

This composite photo created for CJ3B.info shows one of the CFA's Willys tankers as it might have looked in 1957. This particular truck is now on permanent loan from the CFA to the Fire Services Museum in East Melbourne. It's actually on the CFA reserve list and can be called back into service.

CFA photo 1956Keith Pakenham of the CFA told CJ3B.info in 2013, "15 Hurricane Willys tankers were produced for the CFA in 1956, with a BSA pump and a 180-gallon water tank. In 1965, 15 Tornado 17B Willys tankers were produced with a newer BSA pump and a 200-gallon water tank. These small 4WD tankers enabled crews to get in ahead of larger tankers to wildfires and knock the fire down quickly."

Photo courtesy CFA.

BushfireAnother composite picture created for CJ3B.info shows a 1955 Willys L6 truck owned by John Keane. Formerly with the CFA Brigade in Ballarat, Victoria, this truck was purchased by John in 1977, with only 13,000 miles on the clock.

Kangaroo Groound This photo from Keith Pakenham shows a radio-equipped tanker with the volunteers at the original CFA Kangaroo Ground fire station, northeast of Melbourne.

Yellingbo KA94This example of the distinctive and practical Willys fire truck design is proudly lettered for the village of Yellingbo, which Mike Kelly tells us is about 30 miles east of Melbourne.

See also another Yellingbo unit (70K JPEG) pulling a pump trailer. The photos were found by Wayne Ellard.

CFA postcardThis postcard, No. 2 in a series of "Historic Fire Fighting Vehicles" from the CFA, shows their "Willys Jeep Type 14 Tanker". Thanks to Ross Brealey.

A 1973 brochure produced by the CFA includes photos of Jeep trucks in the 1960s. The brochure describes the dramatic and successful battle against bushfires by volunteer fire fighters. Photos include a Willys truck in action and a Willys truck and a larger tanker in the grasslands. Thanks to Ted Robinette.

See also a photo showing the mobilization of resources to fight a fire in Benalla in 1968 (15K JPEGs).

Melton 1970This photo of a Willys Commando brought to Australia was also supplied by Keith Packenham, who says: "CFA only had one front-mounted pumper and it was fully imported from America. It was a 1962 Hurricane which was used at Monbulk fire brigade in the Dandenong Ranges until 1970 when it was transferred to Melton fire brigade to be used for another three years. It was then sold in 1973."

Front pump WillysKeith thinks this is probably the same truck. Wayne Ellard found this photo but doesn't have any information on the truck -- anybody know where this was taken? See also a side view (30K JPEG).

Willys Australia advertised the Commando in a brochure (310K JPEG).

See also Jeep Gladiator Fire Trucks for a few Gladiator tankers built for the CFA starting in 1966.

Queensland Willys Pumpers

Queensland Fire
Rural Fire Service Queensland is the volunteer arm of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, originally established as the Queensland Fire Service in 1990. RFSQ has some 35,000 volunteers in 1500 brigades, covering 93% of the state.

Muttabura frontHere's another example of a fire-service vehicle built on a Willys chassis, and custom-designed for local needs and standards. This 6-226 fire unit is from the small cattle town of Muttaburra in central Queensland. Like the Swedish Hose Car, this Australian design owes little to the Willys Commando fire truck (100K JPEG) other than the cab, chassis and 6-226 engine.

The rear-mounted pump, central stowage for the hard suction hose (see rear photo below), and overhead ladder rack, result in a body with very clean lines, and storage compartments for lots of small gear.

Muttabura rearVaughn Becker, who sent these photos, provides this background on the truck: "The Queensland Government supplied a number of these units to small rural towns about 1961. The trucks left the Willys Brisbane factory as cab/chassis and were converted in Brisbane prior to being put into service throughout the state."

They reportedly had an 88-gallon tank and carried 800 feet of 2-1/2" hose.

BiggendenAnother of the Queensland pumpers appears in Biggenden, in this 1997 photo by Graham Kircher. A thousand kilometers east of Muttabura, Biggenden is a mining and agricultural town north of Brisbane.

Thanks to all the contributors. -- Derek Redmond

See an FC-170 of the Sutherland Bushfire Service, and the Presha FC-170 Light Rescue Tender, in Jeep FC Fire Engines Around the World.

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Last updated 8 January 2016 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond