From fire bucket brigades, to horse-drawn hose-and-ladder wagons, to state-of-the-art fire engines, Nelson's fire station has housed them all! It all started in 1891, with the appearance of an arsonist in the City of Nelson. To protect the city filled with wood-framed buildings, a fire brigade was employed.
In the early days, fire was an ever-present danger both in the forested mountains around Nelson and also in town, where wood was the only building material for the first seven years after Nelson was founded. In 1891 the Deluge Hook and Ladder Company was formed 16 active members received an annual stipend of $18, while non-active members were paid $1 annually, plus an additional .50 cents per month. This practical financial arrangement was made after the burning of the International Hotel, when citizens had to put up $384 to get the fire equipment “out of hock.” Later that same year, Nelson ladies raised $89 to purchase a 300-pound bell for the fire hall. This bell has recently been refurbished by members of the Nelson IODE and is on display at the fire station.
Nelson's first fire hall was built in 1894 on the southeast corner of Josephine and Victoria streets, the present location of the No. 2 electrical substation. It served the community for 19 years, a relatively short time for fire hall occupancies. The main reason for moving the hall was the rapid growth of residential and commercial buildings in the Uphill area. The new fire hall needed to be located in the new growth area and still serve the downtown core with adequate response times.
On August 26, 1912, city council approved the construction of the new fire hall and awarded the contract to John Burns and Son in the amount of $17,973. Construction proceeded immediately and was completed in June 1913, when the fire department took occupancy. In its infancy, the station housed two teams of horses and was able to accommodate wagons or sleighs depending on the time of year. The fire hall, as well as students at nearby Central School conducting a fire drill can be seen in this film, which also shows the horses exiting the hall, pulling the apparatus of the day. The hall was also the residential quarters for the Fire Chief, and on duty firefighters.
In 1918 the city purchased its first motorized fire apparatus, a 1918 American La France pumper truck. Over the next decade, the horses worked alongside a growing fleet of motorized apparatus. The 1918 La France was eventually replaced by a 1924 La France and then a 1938 Ford pumper.
Over its 100 year history, Nelson has placed into service 9 new engines and 3 new ladder trucks, from the first 1918 motorized fire engine to today's modern machines. With the history and tradition of the Nelson Fire Department, the members have built a relationship of trust with the community, spanning the 100 years of service in this historical building, and carrying on into the future.
(The 1944 Bickles and the 1938 Ford)
Today the Nelson fire department has four state of the art pieces of fire apparatus that respond to more than 1,000 calls annually. The department's responsibilities includes such tasks as medical first response, Jaws of Life vehicle extraction, high-angle rope rescue, assisting adjacent fire departments, confined space rescue, and hazardous goods incidents. The department serves the City of Nelson and a large contracted area for the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
The Nelson Fire Department celebrated the 100-year anniversary of BC's oldest operating fire station in 2013. We hosted the spring meeting of the Fire Chiefs' Association of BC executive board and celebrated the fact that this association was founded in Nelson in 1907, when it held its' inaugural meeting in the Nelson Courthouse. Under the direction of Fire Chief Len MacCharles, the department consists of an assistant chief, three captains, six firefighters, and a secretary-dispatcher, as well as twenty auxiliary firefighters.
The City of Nelson has the distinction of operating from the oldest fire station in the province of British Columbia. Nelson Fire and Rescue members extend a warm welcome and invite you to come by for a visit.
For even more detail about Nelson's history with fire, arson, Hollywood, and life in the fire hall, explore this external link.
For an external link filled with photos from throughout our history, see our Flickr page.Go to Top