Charlottetown First Motorized Fire Truck
Charlottetown First Motorized Fire Truck

HISTORY OF CHARLOTTETOWN FIRE DEPARTMENT 1866-2010

The Early Days

When “Charlotte Town” was founded, it was a garrison and fortified town. To protect themselves against fire the Citizens looked to the British Army for fire protection.

Prior to 1855, there existed a group of citizens in the Town knows as “Fire Wards.” Each Fire Warden carried a red staff about five feet long, surmounted by a gilt ball. This staff was his emblem of authority and at fires he could order citizens to form bucket brigades.

On December 3, 1855 a by-law was passed establishing a volunteer Fire Department consisting of as many Engine men and Hook and Ladder men as the number of engines and other apparatus that the City may require, and thus began the service that took as its motto “Ever Ready When Duty Calls”. The first Fire Chief was Henry Palmer.

The City was devastated by what is known as “The Great Fire of 1866.” This fire, the worst in the city’s history, destroyed over four city blocks in Ward One.

In 1888 the next City Hall was completed with its 80-foot bell tower, stables for six horses to pull the fire equipment, complete with automatic door that opened when the alarm sounded. This system released the horses from their stalls into the engine room to be harnessed up.

A sad note in the fire department history is a report given by Chief A. N. Large to City Council on December 30, 1890: “Mr. Theo J. Farquharson, Lieutenant Salvage Corps was so badly burned that he died the next day.”

From 1900 to 1940 the Charlottetown Fire Department enhanced it’s fire fighting equipment from hand pulled hose reels, to horse drawn steam engines, to a chemical car and then to powerful motorized pumpers.

In 1943 the Parkdale Fire Department was established as part of the wartime ARP effort.

In 1960 the Sherwood Fire Department was formed to protect the area formerly know as Central Royalty.

On April 1st 1995 the three Fire Departments were combined into the newly amalgamated City of Charlottetown Fire Department.

Since Amalgamation the Charlottetown Fire Department has dedicated it’s time and efforts to the protection of life and property and to providing the highest degree of fire safety education and information to their citizens by presenting professional, quality service in fire fighting, rescue, fire prevention, code enforcement, and investigation. Through determination, courage, and commitment, the groundwork has been laid for such service and we look forward to continuing to advance the Fire Service in all aspects of the Fire Department through modernization and education.

The tower of City Hall has a belfry from which hung the fire bell. Prior to 1888, city residents relied on the Town Crier to sound the alarm for a fire. His warning was passed by word of mouth as quickly as possible – not a very efficient way to warn citizens of a fire.

When the fire bell arrived, it was a great boon to the city and was first located in the old market building. It was referred to as “Big Donald” after the fire chief of 1875, Donald MacKinnon. When this bell cracked in 1877 it was returned to Boston to be recast. In order to receive some compensation for the cost of recasting, the foundry owners recast it somewhat smaller than the original. The bell was returned and put back in place, and at some point cracked again. Then, when it was rung to sound an alarm on the morning of February 20, 1884, it fell to pieces. It was sent away and recast a second time and again replaced in the old Market building. It was moved to the City Hall tower in 1888. The bell was used to alert the volunteer fireman of an emergency. In September 1952 an air horn, which is still used today, was installed for sounding fire alarms. The fire bell was retired in1966, to its present location, the front lawn of the Kent Street side of the building.
(Rogers, Irene L. Charlottetown The Life in Its Buildings)

The fire horn is used to alert the volunteer firefighters, alert the public that fire apparatus is responding and as warning during emergencies or disasters.