On June 12, 1946, Colwood Fire Rescue was officially formed, forever changing the lives of residents for the better.
Seventy-five years later, much has changed with the ministry, but its mission remains the same: to protect the people of Colwood.
“We are the oldest fire department on the West Coast,” Acting Fire Chief Greg Chow said. “It’s amazing to just recognize the fact that we’ve been around for 75 years… today, looking back, we definitely have a department to be proud of. “
Chow said the department was unable to properly celebrate the milestone over the summer as the pandemic was still raging, and their attention was focused on honoring the late Fire Chief John Cassidy. of a heart attack this month. But now, as 2021 draws to a close, Chow has been able to introduce Black Press to the history of the department with the help of his museum.
“We started in 1939 as an Air Raid Protection District, then moved to Colwood Fire Prevention District in 1946,” Chow said, among the department’s historic amenities.
Originally armed with fire hoses and pump trailers borrowed from the federal government, the fledgling organization made its first vehicle purchase in 1942 – an open-top truck purchased from a local market gardener.
Chow said that over the years members of the department would include many well-known Colwood families, including the Ridleys, Emerys and her own family, who have had volunteer members for the department since 1952.
“Becoming a firefighter is a lifelong dream for some people,” said Chow. “Some people like to use this as a springboard for their careers; others just want to serve their community.
The years will also be marked by several major fires that the department will have to fight, including one that will destroy the road sawmill in 1952, but the neighboring wooden buildings were saved thanks to the efforts of the department. On April 1, 1961, the first of several major fires at Colwood Plaza would ignite. Once again, the ministry’s efforts would succeed in saving neighboring buildings.
As Colwood grew and became busier, so did his firefighters. Chow said when he first joined the department in 1982, they got around 100 calls a year. Today, they receive on average between 600 and 700 calls per year.
“It’s not just fires, but medical procedures, car crashes, confined space rescues, dive rescues, that sort of thing as well.” Chow said the most significant changes the department has seen over the years, and the best presented in the museum, are changes to their equipment. At first, volunteers fought the fires with nothing more than a thick coat, basic helmet and rubber boots. Their equipment was nothing more than trucks with basic pumps, hoses and hand tools.
Over the years, a firefighter’s clothing would evolve rapidly to offer much more protection, while their equipment would become much larger, more complex, more efficient and better suited to the needs of the growing community.
Today, change continues to happen. Chow said the department will choose a new permanent leader in 2022; a second fire station is planned to improve response times as the city develops; and the ministry can also move away from its volunteer model to adopt a more full-time staff structure to better meet demand.
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