Oakville Images
OPL Oakville Heritage Moments: The Oakville Fire Department, Part 1


Description
Media Type:
Video
Item Type:
Video recordings
Description:
This video is part of a series titled 'Oakville Heritage Moments.' Produced by the Oakville Public Library, these videos aim to focus on snapshots of Oakville's history. This video focuses on the early era of firefighting in Oakville.
Notes:
Video written and produced by the Oakville Public Library’s Digital Heritage Assistant, 2018. Narrated by June Campbell.
Photos from Oakville Images, Oakville Historical Society, Oakville Museum, Library and Archives Canada, FLickr, Wikimedia Commons, Toronto Archives, McCord Museum, Library of Congress, Bronte Historical Society, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, Trafalgar Township Historical Society, Town of Oakville, The Oakville Beaver.
Music: Gaucho - Chiquinha Gonzaga, performed by Markus Staab via musopen.org.
Special thanks to the Young Canada Works in Heritage Organizations Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Date of Publication:
2018
Language of Item:
English
Copyright Statement:
Protected by copyright: Uses other than research or private study require the permission of the rightsholder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permissions and for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Contact
Oakville Public Library
Email
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Oakville Public Library

Central Branch

120 Navy Street

Oakville ON L6J 2Z4

Tel: (905) 815-2042

For information about photographs, news articles, or other information included in this database, please contact the Local Collections Librarian by email.


Transcription:

Fire protection has been a concern in Oakville since the founding of the town, but it hasn’t always existed the way it does now. In the early 1800s, before most cities had an organized fire department, fires were handled by “bucket brigades”. When a fire broke out, any able bodied townsperson was expected to take part in putting it out by passing buckets of water down a line to the blaze. At the time, this slow method was the best that could be done in Oakville, despite fires being exceptionally common.

One such fire in 1856 burned down a foundry on Colborne (now Lakeshore road) causing 10,000 dollars’ worth of damage. This and similar fires pressured the town into purchasing a fire engine. In the same year, the community raised enough money to buy a hand powered engine which was nicknamed “Little Cataract”. The engine was small and inefficient by today’s standards, it needed about twenty people to pump handles on either side in order to produce a stream of water. During this time, the St. Jude church’s bell was used to alert the town of a fire, and any civilian who showed up to the scene would help put it out.

In 1857, Oakville’s first by-law to prevent fires was passed, and a year later in 1858, the Cataract Fire Engine Company No.1 was formed. Like the Neighbouring Trafalgar and Bronte fire departments, This was a volunteer fire company. Volunteer companies were very common at the time, but this meant that the firefighters were not compensated for their exhausting and dangerous work.

In 1871, a bush fire broke out at sixteen mile creek that covered the area in a cloud of smoke for five days. This led to the Fire and Water committee seeking out ways to improve fire protection for Oakville. A second hand-powered engine was purchased from Toronto.

In 1917, the fire engines were retired in favour of a fire hydrant system created in 1908. The hydrants were much more efficient than the town’s engines, needing less manpower and covering a larger area.

Before improvements were made, however, another catastrophic fire broke out in 1883 in the office for the Standard Newspaper. The firefighters were unequipped for such a large fire and could not stop it before the building collapsed, causing the fire to spread to neighboring buildings. Help was sent from Toronto at 1 AM, but by the time they arrived, the fire had been put out and damages had reached a whopping 100,000 dollars.

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OPL Oakville Heritage Moments: The Oakville Fire Department, Part 1


This video is part of a series titled 'Oakville Heritage Moments.' Produced by the Oakville Public Library, these videos aim to focus on snapshots of Oakville's history. This video focuses on the early era of firefighting in Oakville.