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Oakville Heritage Moments – Oakville Fire Department (Part 2)

The Oakville Fire Department was created on
April 30, 1909, bringing with it a handful of improvements. The fire companies were replaced by hose companies,
placed strategically throughout the town to cover the most area. Though they were still called volunteers,
the firefighters were then paid a dollar for arriving at a fire, and 35 cents for each
hour worked after the first. By this point, fires were reported by telephone,
which was then signaled by a steam whistle located first at the Marlatt and Armstrong
Leather Company, then at the Monsanto Company. At first, hose companies would pull their
hose reels to the fire using horses or on foot, but by 1917 all stations had a gasoline
powered vehicle to accomplish the task. Oakville purchased its first motorized chemical
fire truck in 1919 when the government was selling surplus equipment from the war. In 1924, twelve fire alarm pull boxes were
installed in the streets to allow citizens to more effectively alert authorities of a
fire’s location. Though the call boxes were useful, since the
system was anonymous false calls became more common. The biggest change came in 1961 when Oakville
and Trafalgar amalgamated leading to the Oakville and Bronte fire departments coming together
to form the New Town of Oakville Fire Department. The new department’s limits included the
Township of Trafalgar, bringing the total number of calls to 400 per year, where Oakville
alone rarely broke 100 per year. At this point, the department began to hire
full-time firefighters. The hires started with six firefighters in
1962, but by the time the fire station on Randall and Navy was built in 1967, there
were a total 38 full-time firefighters, 80 volunteers, and three dispatchers allowing
the station to function 24 hours a day. The former fire station on Navy and Randall
was built on the site of the old Methodist Church and water tower that was used previously
to train volunteer firefighters. The black top of the tower was added to match
other public buildings in Oakville, such as the central library and the real estate board
building across the street. The Fitzsimmons Cairn, dedicated to a former
Oakville Employee who served in the First World War, stands outside the station and
actually predates the station itself by three years. Today, the old Church street station is designated
as a heritage building, and the department has moved from navy street to a more modern
facility on kerr street.

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