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Book launched: Volunteer Fire Fighting in South Australia

Those who knew Rex Hall will know that one of Rex’s events was never just a simple event. There was always something extra. And so, with Rex’s passing, those closest to him rallied around to make his memorial special, with that something extra being the launch of Rex’s final book, Volunteer Fire Fighting in South Australia.

Rex’s final book had been a labour of love and years in the making. He was determined to see it published ready for an AFSM reunion he had organised for June 2023. Unfortunately, he would not be able to see either of these events come to pass.

On his passing, the CFS Foundation led by Gloria Berni, CEO, committed to completing Rex’s final work in his memory. A small team including Alan and Chris Hall, Gloria, and Rex’s granddaughter, Karen Bath, put many hours and late nights into moulding the manuscript into its final published form.

The family would like to express their enormous thanks for the support and efforts of Gloria and the CFS Foundation, along with the SA Country Fire Service, who made this publication possible.

On Saturday 15 July 2023, Volunteer Fire Fighting in South Australia was launched at Rex’s memorial. As the title describes, the book provides a history of volunteer fire fighting efforts and organisation in South Australia over the last 100 years, from the establishment of the Emergency Fire Service to the current home and activities of the Country Fire Service.

The journey Rex takes us on is part memoir, part interview, part rendition, and completely a celebration of those who dedicate their time to protecting lives and property across South Australia. The book is a collation of the important events that stand as signposts throughout the history of the EFS and CFS.

In early years, prior to the introduction of the motor vehicle, volunteers fought fires on foot with beaters and knapsacks. The organisation of fire fighting was exactly the opposite: it was disorganised.

The upgrade to vehicles saw a leap in efficacy and rapidly changing technologies that helped volunteers and increased their safety while on duty. Knapsack gave way to truck. Vehicles began to tow pump trailers. Grandfather of the service, Fred Kerr introduced the Smoke Social and the Manual. Radio revolutionised the organisation of fire fighters across a fire front. Planes and helicopters now drop massive amounts of water and retardant on bushfires.

Competitions became a way of life, an opportunity to gather with CFS colleagues from near and far, to practice life saving skills, to compete and improve, and to generate the camaraderie and connections that form the CFS family.

In the 1970s, the EFS became the CFS.

A multitude of major bushfires are recalled from Black Sunday in 1956 through the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 that changed fire fighting, as well as landscapes, forever, and the devastating fires of 2019 and more recent years, in which lives of dedicated CFS volunteers were lost.

All this and more has been brought together by Rex in Volunteer Fire Fighting in South Australia.

Where to get the book

Copies of Volunteer Fire Fighting in South Australia are available through the South Australian Volunteer Fire Fighters Museum and the CFS Foundation for $45, postage not included.

All proceeds will go back to the CFS Foundation to cover the costs of publication.

Order your copy today

Order from the South Australian Volunteer Fire Fighters Museum by email to Pick up location is at the Museum: 52 Kingston Avenue East, Naracoorte.

Order from the CFS Foundation by email to or by phone on 1300 270 278. Pick up location is at the CFS Foundation office: 37 Richmond Road, Keswick.

Postage also available, but not included in the price of the book.