From fire-bucket brigades to horse-drawn hose-and-ladder wagons to state-of-the-art fire engines, Nelson's fire station has housed them all!
It all began in 1891 when an arsonist struck the City of Nelson. To protect a young city filled with wood-framed buildings, the first fire brigade was employed. The Deluge Hook and Ladder Company employed 16 active members received an annual stipend of $18, while non-active members were paid $1 annually.
First Fire Hall
Nelson's first fire hall was built in 1894 on the southeast corner of Josephine and Victoria streets, and it served the community for 19 years until it became advantageous to build a new firehall amid the construction boom of residential and commercial buildings in the uphill area.
New Fire Hall
On August 26, 1912, city council approved the construction of the new fire hall and awarded the contract to John Burns and Son in the amount of $17,973. By 1913 the new station was open, large enough for two teams of horses plus wagons or sleighs, depending on the time of year. The hall was also the residential quarters for the Fire Chief, and on duty firefighters.
Watch a film of the Nelson Fire Hall and its horses as nearby Central School students perform a fire drill in the early years.
In 1918 the city purchased its first motorized fire apparatus, a 1918 American La France pumper truck. Over the next decade horses worked alongside a growing fleet of motorized apparatus. The 1918 La France was eventually replaced by a 1924 La France and then a 1938 Ford pumper. Since then, updated trucks and apparatus have been introduced to keep the department modern, efficient, and working to keep residents safe.
Over its 100-year history the Nelson Fire Department and its the members have built a relationship of trust with the community. Today the Nelson Fire Department has four state-of-the-art pieces of fire apparatus that respond to more than 1,000 calls annually. The original bell, recently restored by members of the IODE, is displayed proudly at the station along with two 1944 Bickle-Seagrave fire trucks, a nod to the past as Nelson’s Fire Department looks to a future of service to the community.
Today, under the direction of Fire Chief Len MacCharles, the department consists of an assistant chief, three captains, six firefighters, and a secretary-dispatcher, as well as twenty auxiliary firefighters in a beautiful brick building that holds the distinction of being the oldest fire station in the province of British Columbia.
For even more detail about Nelson's history with fire, arson, Hollywood, and life in the fire hall, explore Kootenay History.
For an external link filled with photos from throughout our history, see our Flickr page.