History of the Timmins Fire Department

Early mining settlements were constantly faced with the danger of fire. These communities, which suddenly blossomed in the virgin forests, usually consisted of wooden buildings and had practically no fire protection. As a result, any fire in such an area, under favourable conditions, could easily destroy the Town and acres of surrounding forest.

In 1911, such a tragic event occurred and South Porcupine was destroyed. Seventy-three hardy pioneers had been suddenly killed while the fire burned 864 square miles and caused $3 000 000.00 in property damage.

Such a tragic event had its repercussions in the little settlement that was soon to be incorporated as the Town of Timmins. The late fall of 1911 saw interested citizens meeting in a box car of the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway, located on a railway siding. This meeting gave birth to the first organized fire fighting brigade to replace the bucket brigade, which often allowed a fire a good start due to their lack of organization. This new fire department was organized before the Town of Timmins was incorporated in 1912. The first Chief was the Bank Manager of the Imperial Bank, Mr. Ken DeLong. This original Fire Department consisted of the Chief and approximately twenty volunteers.

The fire equipment in 1912 did not consist of much, especially when one considers that the town had a population of 974. A steamer pump was bought in 1912 for $5, 500.00 and this, along with the old hand reels, was all the equipment they had.

1912 was a trying year for the infant fire department. Chief McKay, who resigned on July 12, 1912, followed the first Fire Chief, Mr. DeLong. Mr. John Knowland then became the new Fire Chief and under his direction the department made some important improvements.

An embarrassing moment occurred in the same year when their rented storage shed was destroyed by fire and all the contents were lost.

To replace the reels, the Town purchased a fire wagon in 1913. But, as the town did not own any horses, it had to rely on the delivery teams of the Town. At the sound of a fire alarm, it was not an uncommon sight to see several teams racing to get to the Fire Hall first and hook up to the fire wagon and departing for the scene of the fire. This was so because a $5.00 reward was paid to the team that pulled the fire wagon. This, of course, created considerable excitement in the small community.

Town Council, in the same year, passed a resolution to build a pump house on the Mattagami River so that a sufficient supply of water would be available.

The first paid man on the Fire Department was Mr. Dickson, who was hired as a Fire Inspector. He was appointed by Council on December 14, 1914 and received a monthly salary of $25.00.

1916 was an active year for the Fire Department. At this time a new fire wagon was purchased and the first street alarm system was installed. Also, a new fire hall was built on the corner of Cedar Street and Fourth Avenue. This location was used until 1957. During the year, a new Fire Chief, Ernie Hill, was appointed on August 16, 1916. However he was quickly succeeded by Mr. Day who was then succeeded by Mr. A. King.

The Matheson fire of 1916 destroyed 1000 square miles of bush and caused property damage estimated at $ 2, 000, 000.00 of property damage. It claimed the lives of 223 people. This fire made the Town Council in Timmins realize that a full-time Fire Chief was required to protect the Town.

Thus, on March 1, 1917, Mr. Alex Borland, who came here from Cobalt and highly recommended as a firefighter, was appointed Fire Chief. Chief Borland was given 3 paid fire fighters and they were helped by about 20 volunteers.

In 1917, Chief Borland had the Town build a water tower behind the new fire hall. Also, a 60 foot tower to dry the hose was built. At the top of this tower a large bell was hung. This bell is well remembered for the 9:00 curfew law at which time it tolled to send the young people homeward.

The new Chief recommended that a team of horses be purchased solely for the use of the fire department. Consequently, Toby and Teddie could be seen almost punctually at 9:00 a.m. out for their daily exercises with the teamster perched high on his seat with taut reins and bells clanging.

It was not a pleasant or easy task being a full time fire fighter in those days. It was a full time job being on duty, keeping equipment in good repair and looking after the horses. These men were at the station twenty-one hours per day, with only three one-hour breaks for meals at home.

In March of 1917, a severe snowstorm struck Timmins and streets were impassable. The T.N.O. Railway was snowbound and no supplies came in for a week. If a fire had occurred at this time, it would not have been difficult for a fire to have completely demolished Timmins. Fortunately, no serious fires occurred, but such situations as the one mentioned above kept the fire fighters edgy.

1922 saw the water supply taxed to the limit and Council was seriously considering building a new pumping station. They were spared this effort when the Hollinger built the present pump house in 1923. Timmins bought the water at a nominal rate (in 1966 Timmins purchased the water system from the Hollinger). Also in 1922, the two platoon system was introduced.

1924 saw numerous improvements occur in the fire force. The men received their first uniforms. A second team of horses was added to help Tobie and Teddie. These “hayburners” remained on the force until 1934. The most significant change was the addition of a gasoline driven fire truck which arrived in 1925.

However, with a change to gasoline buggies, as they were often called, came significant changes in working hours for the men. Now they worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day. This gave the men more home life.

In the year 1928, on the 10th day of February, the most disastrous fire in the history of the Town of Timmins broke out in the Hollinger Gold Mine. This fire claimed the lives of thirty-nine (39) of our beloved citizens. There were special trainloads of specialized men and equipment from the Coal Mines in the United States, to assist the local mine authorities and personnel to combat the very damaging fire. As a result of this fire, Ontario’s first Mine Rescue Station was opened in Timmins in 1929 under the Ontario Department of Mines.

Fresh air breathing apparatus also became a common and important piece of firefighting equipment. These air packs allowed the fire fighter to enter a smoke filled building, which had been humanly impossible to do without one. This enabled the men to extinguish many fires before much damage had been done.

1946 improved the men’s working conditions. Ten new men were hired and these additions enabled the working day to be reduced to eight hours per day, six days per week. The Department also went on a three-platoon system.

1948 saw a second pumper added to the force. This modern truck had a 1000 G.P.M. pump. It should be remembered that the population was now almost 30 000 and that only the most modern equipment would provide adequate fire protection.

On September 4th, 1957, the Fire Department moved to its current fire hall situated at 133 Cedar Street South.

In 1961 the Department introduced a four-platoon system, which worked on a 10 and fourteen-hour system, with the twenty-four hour Sunday kept. The Timmins Fire Department still presently employs this system.

1962 will long be remembered by the force for it was at that time the pride of the department was purchased – an eighty-five-foot Aerial. Not only did this enable the fire fighters to fight fires better, but also it enabled them to save lives, since the ladder could easily be raised to the upper floors of a building.

Chief Stanley received his pension in 1964 after being on the Department for 40 years as a paid firefighter. Fire Chief James Morton, who was hired in 1927, succeeded him.

During his term in office as fire chief, a new 840 G.P.M. diesel pumper was purchased for the Timmins Fire Department. We had the distinction of being the first Fire Department in the Province of Ontario to put into the fire services a new diesel operated pumper.

In 1966 the Timmins Fire Department hired a full-time secretary.

Upon Chief Morton’s retirement in 1969, the Deputy Fire Chief William H. Martin was promoted to the rank of Fire Chief, effective December 15th, 1969.

As Chief, he was responsible for establishing a Fire Prevention Bureau consisting of two Fire Inspectors in April of 1970.

In 1971, being a firm believer in trained fire fighters, the Chief set up a system whereby the fire fighters were sent to the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst, to take the twenty-two week Fire Technology Course and also organized a new Training Program within the department. In this way, the fire fighters became highly skilled and knowledgeable in their field and were able to give the citizens of our Town better fire protection when called upon.

Further to his belief in training professional fire fighters, Chief Martin realized that the Volunteers also needed training in fire fighting techniques. With this in mind, Chief Martin and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office organized and conducted the first Cochrane District Regional Fire Training School for the Volunteers of the Cochrane District, which was held in August of 1972.

Also, in June of 1972, we purchased a new ¾ ton utility truck, which was equipped and put into service to carry rescue and rural fire equipment.

Due to the expansion of the Administration Department, Chief Martin was successful in acquiring new office quarters for himself and his staff, which is situated on the second floor of the Fire Hall at 133 Cedar Street South.

In 1973, amalgamation of the Township of Mountjoy, the Town of Schumacher and Town of South Porcupine, the Township of Whitney and numerous unpopulated townships, saw the Town grow to 45,000 population in an area of 1205 square miles and became known as the City of Timmins.

The Volunteer Fire Chief of the Town of Schumacher, Mr. Jim Forrester became the new paid Deputy Fire Chief in charge of the east end volunteers while Mr. Rolly Tremblay remained as Deputy Fire Chief in charge of the paid fire fighters and the Timmins Volunteers.

The old Town of Schumacher and South Porcupine and the Township of Whitney kept their Volunteer Departments, all headed by District Chiefs under Fire Chief William Martin of the City of Timmins. The old Township of Mountjoy, which had purchased fire services from the old Town of Timmins for so many years, was now being covered by the new City paid fire fighters at no charge.

During the next two years, the Fire Prevention branch was increased from a staff of two to four fire Prevention Officers and the position of Training Officer was implemented.

In July of 1975, Fire Chief Bill Martin retired and R.U. Tremblay became the new Fire Chief while Jim Forrester became Deputy Fire Chief for both the paid fire fighters and the volunteers.

In 1977, the City purchased a rescue truck with a 250 G.P.M. pump and a 250 gallon water tank. It was equipped with the Hurst Rescue tool, air chisels, air bags, jacks, RS 10, K-12 saw, rams and many other pieces of rescue equipment.

In 1980, the emergency services were incorporated into the 911 communications system, with the central dispatching located in the Police building.

Due to the Deputy Chief Jim Forrester’s serious illness, in January of 1981, Albert Schaffer was hired as Deputy Fire Chief in charge of the paid fire fighters and the Timmins Volunteers, while J. Forrester remained as the Deputy Fire Chief for the east end volunteers.

Chief Tremblay retired on July 6, 1985. Albert Schaffer replaced him as the new Fire Chief.

After more than 10 years of serving as Fire Chief, Albert retired and the station came under the command of Lester Cudmore.

On January 1st, 2005, Fire Chief Mike Pintar became the new head of the Timmins Fire Department, and on March 8th of that year, Joey Stojkiewicz became the Deputy Chief.

After a lengthy illness, Joey Stojkiewicz passed away on July 15th, 2011, leaving Gerry Sabourin to replace him as the new Deputy Chief.