Fairview Fire Department
Fairview Fire Department started in 1929. We provide our services to the town of Fairview, Alberta and the Municipal District of Fairview #136. Learn more about our history by reading the article below.
The Fairview Fire Department will deliver comprehensive safety services of the highest quality. We will support and maintain a safe, healthy, well-trained, and high-performing workforce.
The Fairview Fire Department will provide high-quality first responder service as part of an integrated emergency medical care system. Fairview firefighters will be community minded for life-safety knowledge and information about the Department's services.
We will attract and retain a qualified and diverse workforce.
Fairview Volunteer Fire Brigade—75 Years of Service
Fairview Volunteer Fire Brigade—75 Years of Service
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by Lynn Malkinson
by Lynn Malkinson
Perhaps no other organization in the town of Fairview has served the community as long and as faithfully as the Fairview Volunteer Fire Brigade. In the earlier days of the town nearly every able-bodied man served on the department at some time during his stay in Fairview. The list of firemen is far too numerous to mention in this short story. Fairview owes them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. To those gallant men and women, we offer our sincere thanks and appreciation for a job well done.
Like all volunteer groups there was no remuneration and sometimes a great deal of uncalled for criticism and abuse. Fire, like flood, is a devastating thing. It can destroy homes and businesses in a matter of minutes. This is perhaps, why the early volunteers stepped forward to offer their services to their fellow man and his property.
It was not surprising, therefore, that in 1929 one of the first tasks undertaken by Fairview's first council, was to look for fire protection. The three-man council selected one of its members to act as Fire Commissioner and it was his first duty to recruit six of the villagers to act on the newly formed volunteer Fire Department.
The water for fire fighting came from a dugout near where the Legion Hall stands today. The village council proceeded to order two 2 steel-wheeled 42 gallon carts. In each tank was water and bicarbonate of soda. Prior to leaving for a fire, a bottle of sulphuric acid was put into the tank and all hoped it would be mixed up at the time of arrival at the fire. The cost of both fire engines was $234.
Six tugging firemen hauled the equipment to the scene of the fire. During the winter, especially with a heavy snowfall, one can well imagine what a horrendous task this must have been. Many tales are told of this struggle with this early antiquated equipment during our long, cold, snow laden winters.
The first fire Chief appears to have been Mr. McBurney. This was not his only duty however. He also acted as village constable, health inspector, pound keeper and enforcer of the few by-laws. He was called the Utility Man and his salary amounted to $700 per year.
In 1930, Council asked for plans for a fire hall and tenders were let. Mr. George Bennett submitted plans sufficient to house the two carts for the sum of $40. The material was supplied by the village. This was to be Fairview's first fire hall and was situated just north of the village newspaper office.
In 1931, village council purchased a fire bell 28" in diameter, weighing 450 pounds and had it mounted on a platform on top of four 35-foot poles.
In 1936, the Fire Department was motorized when council decided to buy a half-ton Ford truck from Northern Supply Co. for the sum of $125. This was to eliminate the pulling of carts to the scene of the fire. A tank, pump, and hoses were carried on the truck, which saved a great deal of labor for the volunteer firemen.
In 1938, the department reached a new status when a siren was purchased for the fire truck for the sum of $17.75. This was affectionately dubbed "The Howler" by the villagers of the day. The fire hall had to be enlarged to accommodate the new equipment and it was necessary to keep a fire going in the hall during the winter months. Janitors were hired for the sum of $0.25 per day.
The first mention of a Fire Chief, chosen from the ranks of the Volunteer Fire Brigade, appears to be in 1948 when Chief Hugh Thomson attended a council meeting to request that council consider purchasing new fire equipment for the growing village.
In the 1949 annual meeting, the taxpayers gave approval to council to buy new firefighting equipment to meet the standards of Western Canada Fire Underwriters. With these instructions, council purchased a crash truck from War Surplus Supply, which, although not too satisfactory, served the town for a few years. The truck cost $5800, had a 600-gallon water tank, foam tank, and 200 feet of hose.
That year, Fairview purchased the fire siren which is on a pole behind the hall today. If two blasts were heard, the fire was for one block either side of Main Street, four blasts the east side of town, six blasts the west side of town and eight blasts meant south of the railroad tracks.
In 1952, the Council decided to buy a new fire truck with modern features. The result was the purchase of a Bickle Seagraves fire unit fully equipped for the sum of $12,619.58. When the old unit was traded in, the price to the town was $7,350.
In 1954, Council decided to build a new brick fire hall for the new equipment. The building was to be 32 feet wide and 60 feet long, which would hold two fire engines and cost $12,000.
In 1958, Chief Thomson suggested to council that the new fire hall be used as a gymnasium and meeting place for the young people of the town. This turned out to be a successful venture.
The rapid advancement in the fire-fighting field from the old two-steel hose carriers to the modern equipment of today is indeed phenomenal.
In 1960, fire Chief Hugh Thomson resigned from his position after serving on the brigade for many years, twelve years as Fire Chief. During his term the village had passed to the status of a town. From 400 people, it had grown to approximately 1600 population. All facilities were forced to grow along with the town. The Fire Department was no exception and as the town expanded, so did the Fire Department.
With the resignation of Fire Chief Thomson, the town fathers approached Fritz Anthony, long time councillor and a member of the department for many years. Fritz had served on council for 10 years and was to serve for 13 more years as Fire Chief. Fritz rapidly became known as a fearless fire fighter. He would not send anyone where he would not go himself and, often to the concern of his crew, he turned up in the midst of smoke and water seemingly unaware of any danger.
In 1964, the MD of Fairview began to have a look at fire fighting equipment. At first it seemed impossible to cover such a large area with fire fighting equipment, but roads were improving every year and with more gravel the miles seemed to shrink. The MD approached the Town Council and it was agreed that, if the MD bought a fire truck, it could be kept in the Town Fire Hall. The Fairview Volunteer Fire Brigade would train firemen throughout the MD to operate the equipment. In return for this, the town was to be allowed use of the MD equipment in the Town of Fairview if needed. It was a large undertaking for such a vast area. It soon proved impossible for the Fairview Volunteer Fire Brigade to train sufficient men throughout the municipality to handle the fire fighting equipment.
For a number of years, the Fairview Volunteer Fire Brigade was shown the appreciation of both the town and MD by the annual Fireman's Ball. This was a public event and money raised went to the coffers of the brigade. These costs were also augmented by grants from the two governing bodies to cover the expenses of their fire brigades. For many years the congenial Joe Hemstock was MC at these affairs. He took every chance available to introduce his fellow firemen to the gathering. He knew them all well, their faults and their strong points, as Joe was Deputy Fire Chief for many years. He served for 28 years.
In 1973, a west side fire alarm was installed at a cost of $1300. In 1974, the council received a request from the Fire Department to consider buying another unit. The estimated cost to the town was $40,000. Fire Chief Fritz Anthony resigned. He was presented with an Achievement Award from the Town Council for his 40 years as a faithful and dedicated fireman.
Glen Shoemaker replaced Chief Anthony. Glen was very active on the fire brigade since he first came to Fairview and his mechanical ability was a great asset to the brigade. Glen served as Chief for three years. In May of 1975, the brigade suggested to council that a small van be purchased in Dawson Creek as a second hand unit and remodelled by the volunteer firemen to suit their requirements.
In 1976 Superior Equipment of Red Deer were the successful bidders for a new fully equipped fire truck. The bid was for the sum of $30,000.
Following Glen's resignation, the volunteer brigade recommended Wally Peterson as Glen's replacement. Wally served as Chief for three years. Jim McGregor followed him from 1982 to 1985. Mr. McGregor, also a long-time volunteer on the brigade, served for 27 years.
I joined the crew when I was a lad of sixteen in 1954. At that time, fire calls came through the telephone office. It was my duty to get the information regarding the fire location and alert the firemen. I was Fire Chief from 1985 to 1994 and retired after 40 years of service. I was the recipient of Fairview's first Exemplary Fire Service Medal for Devotion and Dedication to the Fire Service.
In 1984, Alberta Disaster Services got the Fire Department interested in rescue work when they presented Fairview with the first rescue kit.
Also in 1984, the MD of Fairview purchased a new fire truck as specked out by the department for $95,000.
In 1985, David Kerr went to Mexico with Canada's Rescue Squad to help with the earthquake victims. He got his start with the fire department here and went on to become a paramedic.
In 1989, the highlight of the year was the two councils getting together and honouring all past and present firemen. There were more than 50 retired Fire Department members there that evening.
In 1990, the Fairview Fire Department was given the "jaws of life" to assist in rescue work and became very proficient in their use.
In 1992, the highlight was the purchase of a new $140,000 fire rescue truck and putting it into service.
Since 1994, every December, the Fire Department has had Food Bank drives with generous support from the people of the town. Fire Chief Bob Shmyruk received the Exemplary Fire Service Medal for Devotion and Dedication to the Fire Service.
A new town and MD Pumper Unit with a six-man cab was purchased at a cost of $290.000, making it the number one pumper for both town and country.
There have been several major tires in Fairview and district. One of the worst being the College in which the mechanics building and gymnasium burned in 1958. The Fairview Fire Department have also been involved in fighting six elevator fires. Another bad fire was Carignan Motors, where the Royal Bank stands today. The oils and grease mixed with paints in the body shop of the building made the fire a hot one and sent billows of smoke far into the air. The Fairview High School also burned in the late 1970s.
Many a Sunday supper was interrupted for an undetermined amount of time while the man of the house rushed off to answer the fire call. One cannot leave this Fire Department without mentioning the backbone of the entire brigade.
When learning about this history, most firemen asked me not to forget the women. They were proud of the fact that it was usually them who answered the fire calls, helped get the husbands off to the fire, and welcomed them home as they dragged themselves in, wet, cold and tired to catch a few hours sleep before they went off to their regular jobs.
It is dangerous work and causes uncertainty for all the families and is increasingly demanding as fire technology advances in this modern world. Why do they do it? Only a fireman knows the answer. He will no doubt look at you bewildered by your ignorance and reply, "Why to put out the fire, what else."
Over the years I have tried to compile the history of the Fire Department. I have a list of 290 men and women who have served on Fairview's Volunteer Fire Department. Fifteen were members of the RCMP.
The fire department had five firefighters who were selected to receive the Alberta Emergency Service Medal for their contribution to our community's safety. They were Captain Harry Frykas, Captain Greg Hickok, Auxiliary Tony Shmyruk, Deputy Chief Gary Leathem and Captain Bryan Nilsson. As time passes the history of the department continues to grow.