Beginnings of the Championship
In 1963, at the Interstate Fire Authorities Conference in Adelaide, a proposal for Interstate Competitions was adopted, however, it was not until 2001 before this became a reality.
It was the success of the Federation Championships conducted at Corowa in 2001 which set the foundation for the National Championships and later the Australasian Championships. The Federation Championships was initiated by the NSW Fire Brigades Championships Association and commemorated over 150 years of Fire Brigade competitions.
2003 National Firefighter Championship
The National Firefighters Championships Association organised the first National Firefighter Championships in 2003 at Coffs Harbour. Teams from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Army Emergency, and the Royal Australian Air Force Fire Services competed over three days, from October 17 until October 19, 2003.
According to the National Firefighters Championships program, “This National Championship is being held to recognise the history and competitiveness of all Championship Associations throughout Australia and New Zealand. May the spirit of comradeship and camaraderie thrive at this Championship and those to follow”.
The event was officially opened by the Minister for Emergency Services, Tony Kelly and two-hundred and fifty firefighters and their families were in attendance. Thirty teams competed in ten events designed to enhance basic firefighting skills and promote teamwork. The championships also provided a great opportunity for New South Wales Fire Brigade (NSWFB) to promote fire safety messages to members of the community.
Commissioner Greg Mullins said, “The NSWFB is most honoured to have hosted the inaugural National Firefighters Championships. As we have unfortunately seen in recent years in both Australia and overseas, natural and human-caused disasters often require a coordinated approach across borders. The Championships are another important way of strengthening the already firm bonds that exist between fire services in Australia, and will help to ensure that, when the call of duty comes, we will continue to work together as a seamless team. There are also clear benefits for individual firefighters attending the Championships, as they will have the opportunity to practice and hone skills that translate into more efficient saving of life, property and the environment in their home communities. Last but not least, is the opportunity to strengthen the bonds of camaraderie and friendship between state and territory fire services”.
Firefighters from Port Macquarie Fire Brigade were the overall winners of the inaugural National Firefighters Championship. In second place was the team from Lakes Entrance, Victoria and firefighters from Thirroul, NSW, came third.
Events and Finalists
Urban Pumper Collector & Ladder 4 Competitors
Hose Cart & Ladder 4 Competitors
Hose & Hydrant 4 Competitors (Queensland Event)
600 Gallon Pump First Aid Reel & Collector 4 Competitors
Hose & Hydrant 2 Competitors
Wet Marshall Event 4 Competitors (Victoria Event)
Hose Hydrant & Extinguisher 3 Competitors
Collector Event 4 Competitors (Queensland Event)
Aggregate Points – National Championship
From New South Wales: Balgownie, Belrose RFS, Casino, Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Glen Innes, Kelso, Nowra, Port Macquarie, Scarborough, Thirroul, and Urunga.
From Victoria: Creswick, Echuca, Kooweerup, Lakes Entrance, and Ocean Grove.
From Queensland: Atherton, Monto, Moranbah, and Wondai.
From South Australia: Nuriootpa and Waikerie.
From New Zealand: Carterton.
Other: Army Emergency, Northern Territory, RAAF Fire Services, and Tasmania.
After the 2003 National Firefighter Championship
After the 2003 National Firefighter Championship, another two championships were held. One was held in 2005 on the Gold Coast, Queensland with the finalists including Kelso in first place, Carterton in second place, and Nowra in third place. Teams came from Army Fire & Rescue, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.
The next championship was held in 2007 at the Lakes Entrance with the finalists including Dandenong in first place, Melton in second place, and Kelso in third place. Teams came from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.
In 2009, the Australasian Firefighting Championships was introduced, a biannual competition with teams from across Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Australasian Championships have been held in 2009 at Rotorua, New Zealand, in 2011 at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, in 2013 at Launceston, Tasmania, in 2015 at Echuca, Victoria, in 2017 at Carterton, New Zealand, and in 2019 at Tamworth, New South Wales.
The Firefighter Championships Association has continued to organise championships in the present day with their mission to “develop, maintain and enhance the operational skills of firefighters and promote a professional image of Fire & Rescue NSW to the community”. Their next upcoming event is the Regional Championship on August 5 and 6, 2023, hosted by Cootamundra Brigade.
- Story by Championship Historian John Hand and Museum of Fire Heritage Team