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History of the Medicine Hat Fire Service

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Courtesy of Esplanade, Arts and Heritage Centre Archives

To protect itself and its residents, Medicine Hat saw fit to establish a fire brigade which has since provided fire protection for more than 100 years. On May 28, 1897, a large fire destroyed the town's Government building, the Police stables and a nearby livery. This brought forth the realization that the town was "sorely in need of some system of fire protection.” The locals established a volunteer "bucket brigade" which was followed by discussions of establishing an effective waterworks system and incorporation of the town.

Volunteer Firefighters (1905)Newspaper accounts reveal little of firefighting efforts from this time until May 1899, when the town again faced the potential for wide-scale disaster when a fire broke out along North Railway Street. More formally organized following the 1899 blaze, the local volunteer brigade was apparently more vigilant in protecting the community. Following the installation of a Public Waterworks system in 1901, the first organizational meeting for a 33 member Volunteer Fire Department was underway. Among the first appointments were Dougall McNabb (Chief), W.H. Cavanah (Assistant Chief), H. Tweed (Secretary Treasurer), J. Hardy (Captain of the Hose Company), Wm. Leonard (Captain of the Hook and Ladder Company), and Dave Williamson (Chemical Engineer), plus a brigade of 27 other volunteers. Their equipment consisted of a gong, a siren, a hand-drawn hose reel and a chemical engine.

Horse and Ladder Wagon (1905)
By 1906, the Department had a horse-drawn chemical truck, a horse-drawn pump truck and a horse and buggy. The first Fire Hall was believed to have been built along South Railway Street, then, onto the rear of the first Town Hall located near the entrance to present day Finlay Bridge. On Jan. 1, 1908, William E. Hatcher was hired on as the first salaried Fire Chief for the Department and William H. Buchanan as the town’s first Fireman. Both men were assisted by numerous volunteers in the new Hall at the rear of the New City Hall on Second Street.


Old Fashioned Fire Truck (1905)
On Oct. 6, 1911, the town purchased its first mechanical pump truck, and by 1913, the Department had a fleet of three motorized vehicles. Later, a fire substation was added at the top of Third Street Hill at Division Avenue, and another in the Flats area.

After a lengthy stay at the main downtown location, local congestion made it necessary to look ahead to a new Fire Station. On May 24, 1975, a new station was officially opened on Maple Avenue and soon after a substation was located on Dunmore Road. Medicine Hat's Fire Department continues to serve and protect the City with as much enthusiasm as that first group of dedicated volunteers. Now armed with the latest equipment and the highest level of training, Medicine Hat residents can rest assured that help is only a call away.


FF Monument 2

Medicine Hat Fire Fighter Memorial