"WE HAD leather beaters on a broom handle to beat out the fires."
That's how Doug Crampton remembers the Cherrybrook Rural Fire Brigade 60 years ago when he joined. He was 25.
"We had an old tin shed across the gully [as the station house] and the little tanker we got had nothing with which to pull it," he said.
Mr Crampton, a former brigade captain, was also the "local copper" in those days and it was his idea to ask a real estate agent who was planning to dispose of his packing shed if he might donate it to the brigade instead.
"I thought it was ideal — the roof of the packing shed is this shed," Mr Crampton said.
Mr Crampton gave up volunteering with the Rural Fire Service in 1975 when he broke his shoulder.
He recalled how difficult it was at times to persuade a person to leave their burning home.
He said that when a fire ripped through a mushroom farm and he implored the owner to leave, the man said to him, "I'll call the cops".
"I said, 'I am the cops. I can carry you out, or I can knock you out', which I was quite prepared to do, rather than complete a coroner's report."
According to Kane Lambkin, operations officer of the Hornsby/Ku-ring-gai District, the number of people who have joined the Cherrybrook brigade since its inception on July 28, 1952, was hard to determine "due to poor record-keeping in the early stages of the brigade".
But he said they responded to about 15 major incidents every year.
They also went to Victoria to help fight the devastating Black Saturday bush fires in 2009.
The brigade operates three vehicles, providing protection along 25 kilometres bordering Cherrybrook, Dural, Pennant Hills and North Epping.
They do hazard reductions, bushfire fighting, support to structural fires, search and rescue, vehicle and aircraft crashes, storm and flood emergencies, training and community engagement.