Fire on the Limestone Plains/Bush Fires/The 1926 Bush Fires

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1926[edit | edit source]

In late January 1926 the Territory's first recorded severe bush fire occurred.

  • This fire, in all its aspects, except that the weather was more favourable, resembled the recent fire, came from the same direction and the front was almost as extensive. Fortunately, however, owing to the more favourable weather, we were able to meet it in the forest and a trail of perhaps 40 miles length was made by employees of this Administration, and local landholders, which confined the fire to a great extent to the unimproved country. Had the high winds been blowing on that occasion, as we experienced at this latest fire, the result would have been the same. In fact the damage on that occasion would posibly have been greater, owing to the heavy growth of feed which was present on the occasion. [1]

J.C. Brackenreg Report.[2]


I returned from Recreation Leave on Saturday, the 30th January, and found that a bush fire had been raging since the previous Wednesday (27th). This was a local fire started, it was understood, by some person boiling a billy can at Condor Creek. I immediately visited the localities and found the front of the fire had been stopped and was being watched. Part of the northern, the whole of the western and part of the southern fronts were burning back into the mountain.

Immediate action was taken on the Sunday to trail the southern, northern and western fronts with the result that on the following Thursday night this fire was surrounded, but many parts of the trail were extremely dangerous.

On the 3rd February, in the forenoon, a report reached me that a mountain fire had crossed at Tidbinbilla on a face from the Fisherman’s gap to Tidbinbilla Peak, a distance of a couple of miles. A trustworthy bushman who was sent out to make a reconnaissance from the top of the mountain, reported the fire was travelling on the face from the top of Tidbinbilla where it crossed on the northern end, north-easterly toward Coree and on the southern end, south-easterly towards Orroral.

With that information in hand it became apparent, with the prevailing weather, that the fire must be trailled from Orroral (where I learnt earlier in the day there was some burnt country) to connect with the southern front of the local fire referred to above.

The trail was cut into three sections, one section from Billy Billy Rocks to Orraral and was managed by Booroomba and Cuppacumbalong Stations assisted by six Commission men (who were fed by the Stations referred to). From Billy Billy Rocks over the head of Tidbinbilla and from there south to Oakey Creek a trail was bought along by free holders and leaseholders assisted by about twenty-five Commission employees, under a man selected by the landholders and myself. These numbers were augmented by another forty-five men on one occasion when the fire got over the trail. From Oakey Creek across the Cotter to what is known as Vanity’s Crossing to the southern front of the fire already referred to, Commission employees alone made and held this trail.

About the 8th February, Milson of Uriarra telephoned to say another fire was coming in over Coree and was approaching the Territory to the north of the held fires. I told him that we had our hands full holding the trail from Orroral to Uriarra, and that I considered that it was the duty of the freeholders to run a trail out to head this fire off and that I would let him have four bushmen as they could be spared from the other fire. I also got in touch with the whole of the lessees to the north of Canberra, who would be affected by this fire, and asked them to go out. Many of them did go out and put in good work, but many of them didn’t go and would not send out men.

On Friday Milson phoned to say that the fire had beaten him. Twenty Commission employees were dispatched the next morning, with food, in charge a competent man who was to work in conjunction with Mr. Milson. A new trail was made with the assistance of a few lessees and local landholders to a point on Swamp Creek, outside the Territory, at which time it became known that a fire was raging from the Goodradigbee River and travelling east and north-east.

The fire was being fought by a number of residents in that locality and volunteers from other parts. Between Tuesday and Saturday of that week it was toss up as to whether the men from Yass and our men would hold the fire. Many trails were made and many times the trail was broken until at last on Friday the men fell back as far as possible in the bush country, fortunately the wind lulled, and they were able to connect the two trails up and which were subsequently held.

J. Brackenreg Lands officer 4 May 1926

Various newspapers also reported on these fires including Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer,[3] Queanbeyan-Canberra Advocate,[4] The Braidwood Review and District Advocate [5] and The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal.[6]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. from the Bush Fire Control Organisation files
  2. Archives ACT Folders of fire reports, 1926– A4384
  3. "Bush Fires.". Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer. 29 January 1926. 
  4. "Bush Fires.". Queanbeyan-Canberra Advocate. 28 January 1926. 
  5. "Bush Fires.". The Braidwood Review and District Advocate. 2 February 1926. 
  6. "Bush Fires.". The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal. 5 February 1926.