The SA Country Fire Service (CFS) evolved from a long and complex partnership between volunteers, local government and the South Australian government to meet community safety needs. The partnership began as an attempt to deal with fires in rural areas.
In colonial times, government focus was on the control of wildfire by legislating against the careless use of fire, beginning with the 1847 ordinance against reckless burn offs of stubble and grass. Fire suppression was left to local residents who would band together to fight fires as they arose without any formal organisational or authority to set back burns.
In 1913, Councils were given the right to appoint Fire Control Officers, with power to do anything 'necessary or expedient and practicable´ to prevent fires or to protect life and property in case of fire, or to control or extinguish a fire including back burning.
Technological expansion after the Second World War revolutionised rural fire fighting with the development of radios, telephones, motor transport and the knapsack spray. Rural residents also began to form into local or district fire fighting associations.
Later as part of the Second World War effort, government equipped volunteer Emergency Fire Service (EFS) Brigades were established, at first in Adelaide and later in some country areas. After the war, equipment from these groups was lent to District Councils for rural firefighting work. To supervise the program an Emergency Fire Services operation was formed within the Police Department. Gradually the main local council brigades began to feel part of a statewide service.
From the mid-1950s the EFS organisations grew stronger and volunteers began to campaign for EFS to be established as a statutory authority. This was achieved in 1976, with the passing of the Country Fires Act, which set up the SA Country Fire Service (CFS).
By that time, CFS response had expanded beyond rural firefighting, into road accident rescue and general emergency response, especially in isolated areas where there was no other emergency service. These responsibilities expanded further in succeeding years and continue to do so, incorporating training and equipment in hazardous materials clean up, Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus (CABA), structure fire behaviour and firefighting, high angle rescue and cave rescue.
In 1989 the State Government revised the SA Country Fires Act and Regulations, this enabled them to develop a standardised service that could respond quickly to emergencies across South Australia rather than the individually run local services. In the late 1990´s, the South Australian Government made further changes to ensure that the CFS was properly equipped. They made major changes to the way the CFS was funded and the administration of the service was combined with several other emergency services.
The Emergency Services Levy funding provides for the training, equipment and administration resources required to maintain the operation of the CFS and other emergency services across the state, but the CFS still stands fundamentally on the commitment and energy of its volunteers.
The SA Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 was proclaimed on 1 October 2005 and supersedes the Country Fires Act as the governing legislation for the SA Country Fire Service.
A more in depth history of the SA Country Fire Service has been written by Julie-Ann Ellis in her book Tried by Fire (The story of the South Australian Country Fire Service). For details on how to purchase a copy of this book please contact the Country Fire Service by telephone during office hours or by email - Contact Us.
For information regarding bushfire history in South Australia view Bushfire History.
To view the history of some of our individual Brigades click on the links below:
For additional information regarding other CFS Brigades our Links Section has a link to all of our current Brigade websites.