History of Firefighting in Mission – Honouring the Past, Protecting the Future
Photo taken in 1927: Members of the Mission Volunteer Fire Brigade grouped themselves in front of Mission’s first fire engine. From left to right: Johnson Cannon, Joe Holliday, Charlie Boothby, Wilfred Gibbard, Dave Galliford, John Mandale, Charlie Downing, Art Plumridge, and Fire Chief Percy Routledge.
In December 1908, residents in the Village of Mission commenced discussions on the possibility of having a fire brigade. In order to provide some form of fire protection, short pipes, each holding a length of hose, were spaced at intervals along the main street. A roofed frame was erected around each pipe. In the event of a fire, every available man went into the street to assist.
The first fire apparatus of any kind was purchased in 1913. It had a 50 gallon acid soda and chemical tank mounted on two high wheels and fitted with several hundred feet of one-inch hose. Sheer manpower mobiled the apparatus. The tank was later mounted onto a wider axle and towed by a motor vehicle.
The first permanent Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1927 on the arrival of a new four-cylinder Chevrolet fire truck. At that time the fire brigade, under the administration of Fire Chief Percy Routledge, had nine volunteer firefighters. The first fire station was located at the site of the present museum building on 2nd Avenue.
In 1934 the fire station was moved to the site of the present Scotiabank building on 1st Avenue. In the late 1950s a two-storey fire station was constructed consisting of a three-truck bay and an upstairs recreation/kitchen area. In those days a thriving social committee provided regular family entertainment in the upstairs recreation area. In 1974 the top floor of the old station was moved to a new location on 7th Avenue, the present location of the Mission Fire Rescue Service, and a larger three truck bay was erected in front. The original recreation/kitchen area continued to be used for this purpose.
In 1980 Fire Station No. 2 was built in Stave Falls to provide emergency services to the residents of the area. It consisted of a two-truck bay, an office, and washrooms.
In November 1982, Robert Cannon was hired as Fire Prevention Officer for the District of Mission, working out of the main municipal building. In July 1987 Bruce Hall was hired as full-time Fire Chief. As administration duties increased and technology demanded more official record keeping, an office was established at Fire Station No. 1. The Fire Prevention Officer’s office was moved from the Municipal Hall to the fire station and a part-time secretary was hired.
In 1991, Fire Station No. 3 was constructed in the Silverhill area of Mission to serve the south-western area. In December 10 new firefighters commenced operations in the two-bay facility.
In 1993, the Mission Fire Department changed its name to Mission Fire Rescue Service. Also in 1993 a full-time Fire Inspector was hired to conduct fire prevention inspections and public education sessions. The Fire Department’s Fire Safety House was built in 1994 by the Mission Firefighters’ Association with funding from the Mission Lions Club and McDonalds Restaurant. Due to operating and maintenance costs, the Fire Safety House was donated to a smaller Fire Department in 2008.
With increased commercial growth, an additional part-time Fire Inspector/Public Educator was hired in 2004. Public education programs consist of lectures and fire hall tours for school children, community groups and senior citizens. In 2007 the Fire Department introduced an interactive “Hazard House” into its elementary schools. The Hazard House is a small-scale house that demonstrates household hazards that may exist in a home. It is used to teach children how to identify and prevent hazards in the home.
In April 1998 the existing fire station was demolished and replacement of a new fire station commenced. Firefighters and staff moved to a interim fire station located on 10th Avenue. On June 26, 1999 construction the new Fire Station/Emergency Operations Centre was completed and the station was officially opened by Mayor Randy Hawes. In 2002 Mission Fire Rescue Service celebrated its 75th anniversary; a commemorative pin was designed and celebration activities took place.
Mission Fire Rescue Service has had tremendous growth over the years, especially with the incorporation of the municipality in 1969. From ten paid on call Firefighters in 1927 the department now has over 80 trained paid on call Firefighters located in three stations. Each station has a paid on call District Chief in charge with administrative services being provided at Fire Station No. 1. Mission prides itself in maintaining a high percentage of long serving firefighters, some of which have over 25 years of service.
Mission’s first full-time firefighters were hired in September 2009. Four existing paid on call Firefighters were promoted to full-time firefighters, working day shift, five days per week. In 2010 four additional paid on call firefighters were promoted to full-time firefighters which created two crews working rotating shifts, providing seven day a week daytime coverage for the residents of Mission. In August of 2016 three more career firefighters were hired to allow for 24/7 coverage.
Over its years of operation the Mission Fire Rescue Service has been served by a number of dedicated Fire Chiefs:
- C.G. Evans
- Joe Holliday
- Percy Routledge
- Percy Ferguson
- Norm Ferguson
- Geoffrey Cannon
- Ray Johnston
- Ken Lissimore Sr.
- Bruce Hall
- Frank Ryan
- Ian Fitzpatrick
- Robert Cannon
- Larry Watkinson
- Dale Unrau
- Mark Goddard
1954 GMC Pierre Thibault Fire Truck Restored
In August 1987 the Department’s 1954 GMC Thibault fire truck was taken out of service and donated to the Mission Firefighters’ Association to restore to its original state.
The Mission Firefighters’ Association organized the “Save the 54 Committee” and held several fundraising events to generate money for the project. The vehicle is on display in Fire Station No. 1’s museum, and is driven in parades and special events.