The Union Bay Fire Rescue is committed to providing
professional, efficient and effective services to all residents and visitors of
Union Bay. Our mission will be accomplished through training, education and fire
prevention. When called upon; we will….
- Provide a rapid and professional response to a
- Attempt to minimize loss of life and property from
fire, or disaster
- Show compassion for those involved
- Be committed to protection of the environment
Fire fighting in the early days was the quick formation of a bucket brigade.
Water from wells, creeks and the ocean were used. A hose was connected to the
water tank on the wharf for fires there or around the company yard.
When the Washer was built in 1896, a pipe was laid from the lake to service the
colliery works. Stand pipes, which were used as fire hydrants, were installed,
and several hose reel stations were built around the yard. After the spectacular
blaze which destroyed the Wilson Hotel and surrounding buildings in 1922, and
the fire which burned the Baynes Sound Hotel in 1926, interest was generated by
the company and local citizens to improve fire fighting capabilities. A 1928
one-ton Model A Ford truck owned by the CC(D)L was stripped down and refitted
with hose bed, reel, and tank. An 110 gallon pump was designed and cast in the
foundry. All work was done by volunteers at the shops. When the new truck was
tested in April 1935, the pump recorded 210 gallons per minute with a twelve
foot draft. This was the first power-driven pump on the North Island.
A lot next to the Willis Hotel was bought for $300 from Fraser and Home. The old
square-fronted butcher shop which stood on the lot was renovated by I. Pollock
and D. Haggart to become the first fire hall.
Formation of the department: 1935 - 1944
The Union Bay Fire Department was formed in 1935, with
Johnny Fulcher as the first chief. Jake Campbell and George Watt
were captains. Firefighters were W. Auchinvole, F. Bradley, W.
Glover, G. Home, R. Hudson, H. Jones, W. Peters, G. Strachan, A.
Searle, C. Stubbs and W. Treloar.
With his wife and two daughters, Grace and Ethel,
Fulcher had lived and worked as a mechanic in Union Bay for over twenty-five
years. After only a year the chief died, and was carried to his last resting
place on the fire truck.
Jake Campbell took over as chief, and in that position responded to a gigantic
fire at the Deep Bay Fish Cannery. Eight firemen, with their pump sucking up
salt water, worked valiantly to fight the flames which were fuelled by tarred
nets and two scows of fish oil. The Courtenay brigade also answered the call,
and although the cannery was gutted, the twenty-five other buildings on the spit
During the next few years little was done to improve the department. The Second
World War stirred renewed interest in fire protection, and the fire department
was issued with steel helmets, pumps, and 1000 feet of hose. The company also
replaced and extended the water system.
Equipment upgrades: 1944 - 1955
1944 APRIL . During recent months Union Bay, one of the
most vulnerable areas in the district, has vastly improved its fire-fighting
preparations by installation of a modern hydrant system which cost in the
neighborhood of $12,000 and which provides hydrants throughout the residential
and business sections. Previously, the community faced a difficult pumping
problem in the event of fire, and its small but active volunteer fire department
was faced with many problems. Most of these have been solved by the new
In July 1947 the firefighters responded to a fire at Buckley Bay. A runaway
logging truck had crashed into a pick-up truck containing three men, and pushed
the vehicle into the truck shop. Gas and oil exploded so that little could be
done to save the men trapped inside the inferno.
Over the years, as the department waxed and waned, E.T. Searle was
secretary-treasurer, and managed by donations and grants to keep the truck
going. He turned over a set of records of meticulous detail to the group who
reorganized the department in the spring of 1952. This came about when the
Community Club realized that fire insurance for their hall would be greatly
reduced if there were properly trained firemen provided with approved equipment.
Jake Campbell was retained as chief and Ken Peters became deputy chief. Two
years later the positions were reversed, and George Cooper and Gordon Murdock
were appointed as captains.
A hose tower was built and a siren was installed. With the restructuring of the
department, the firefighters under chief Peters took a more serious attitude to
their job, and attended lectures and classes on fire protection and fighting.
Their equipment was kept in tiptop condition, with the hydrants freshly painted,
ladders waxed, and the brass on the trucks polished. The brigade looked smart in
sweaters and crests they bought through Edna Peters’ store.
The Union Bay Fire Prevention District became a reality with Harry Tappin as
secretary. The north boundary joined Courtenay district at Lyn-Maur Auto Court,
and the jurisdiction stretched south to Tsable River. This meant financial aid
Equipment upgrades: 1955 - 1966
1955 OCTOBER .Union Bay gets a new fire truck made by
the residents... The basis of the
unit is a 1949 three-ton Ford truck chassis. This was stripped down and rebuilt.
The body and equipment were designed by J. Harry Clover and, with the exception
of nozzles, hoses and pumps, all equipment was manufactured at the shops by
While the new truck was still under construction, on May 22, 1955 the Nelson
Hotel burned. All available men and equipment fought the huge fire, with the
assistance of the Courtenay department.
“There was a light southeaster blowing against us to start with, but at the
height of the blaze the wind shifted, and that saved the store and the town.”
Chief Ken Peters
As the fire hall was too small for the new trucks, a building project was
embarked upon. Again, it was back to volunteer labour and donations. Plans were
drawn up by Wilf Clover for the two storey building, to be built directly behind
the old hall. Logs for lumber were donated by Rosewall Logging. Harry Chapman
supervised the building, and George Dutfield the electric wiring. It took
several years until it was completed and the old hall torn down.
About this time the Provincial Fire Marshall’s office required all hydrants to
have 2 1/2
outlets. Prior to this, each community had a size of its own. A machine shop
crew came to town, took the hydrants apart and bushed them up to standard.
Over the years the firemen attended many house, car, boat, and bush fires.
Looking through their minutes, it seems that every few months one of the houses
at Chinatown caught fire from an overheated stove, faulty chimney, or sparks on
the roof. Luckily, they were all extinguished with no loss of life.
“Seven firemen worked the fire at Maw Tawe’s house, but the building was gutted.
A typical fire, burnt the Chinese type construction, tin over shingles and tar
paper next to the chimney. Worked the adjoining building and saved Lin Duck’s
Union Bay Volunteer Firemen’s logbook.
A ladies’ auxilary was formed during the construction, and through raffles, teas
and dances, assisted financially. They contributed to the purchase of equipment
and completion of the recreation room upstairs. With the firemen, they also
brought back the old tradition of Guy Fawkes night.
Dedicated firemen proudly pose, wearing thier new
Standing left to right
Gerry Stewart, Gordon Murdock, Reg Hudson, Bob Treloa r
Reid Roth, and Jack Ward
Sitting left to right
Ken Peters (DC) Jake Campbell (chief) Des Stewart,
& Lyle Stewart
“The women bought our first rubber turnout
coats. We got them from Seattle. We bought things cheap from the War Assets, and
we got called down for it by the other departments. But we had no bucks. The
colliery donated most of the stuff we had. We never bought much until we started
buying that truck, and then we bought accredited equipment.”
Chief Ken Peters
(The above mention articles were duplicated and
printed with permission from Jannette Glover-Geidt and her book
"The Friendly Port" duplication whole or in part with express written
permission from Jannette Glover-Geidt. )
Modernization phase 1: 1967 - 1972
msa air packs 2 purchased
upgraded turnout gear purchased
Modernization phase 2: 1973 - 1990
With the growth of Union Bay into the seventies which
included two subdivisions one to the north and one to the south of the of the
townsite the upgrading of the water system was an important part of the
infastucture of the improvement district. the water system would be started in
1973 and continue for two years. In some areas the old water line was the old
wooden stave type that was banded with wire. New hydrants were installed in
stategic areas as the water system was put in.
As the water system was being put in Hub Firetrucks from Abbottsford BC was
building our new 1973 International pumper that would be delivered in the fall
of that year. This would mean the days for our old tanker were now on the block
as we needed the room for truck 24. Now that water was available and the new
truck in the hall we then turned our thoughts to upgrade and add to out meager
inventory of SCBA's. The purchase of Survivair Breathing Apparatus was now in
the works. A very slow process but very essential to the firefighters. The next
5 or so years saw the purchase of 5 or 6 scba's be put into the inventory
Nearing the end of the decade the new McLeod Rd reservoir was the main focus
to the water system. This system was placed just above the existing wooden
watertank located on the corner of 7th St and McLeod Rd. Once operational the
upgrading to chlorinated water was no to far behind.
In the eighties the department continued to upgrade and improve the equipment
and training. The Improvement district built an office in the back of the
firehall. and the fire department upgrade thier turnout gear to a nomex type for
better personal protection. The old gear as some were still wearing the old
rubber slickers and fibreglass helmets and some wore other inferior types of
turnout gear. It was time to into some proper gear that would do the job. It was
also nice to all look the some for once. Some of the old gear is still around
and is used in displays and in parades around the valley.
Modernization phase 3: 1991 - Present
- New pumper 1991
- Ladies aux purchase flood lites for truck
purchase of portable radios
- Major purchase of new PBI turnout gear helmets upgraded and pagers 1995 -
- 911 system put into place North Island
- Breathing air compressor, cascade system and fill station purchased
- Generator installed to run firehall in case of power failure.