PRINCE GEORGE FIRE FIGHTERS
The need for an organized fire department was quickly recognized after a number of devastating fires in the town sites of South Fort George and Central Fort George.
On July 1st, 1911, a fire destroyed the Hotel Northern in South Fort George. Hand-held fire extinguishers, bucket brigades, and wet blankets were the only fire fighting methods available. As a result of a number of destructive fires, the newly formed South Fort George Board of Trade took the initiative to establish a Fire Committee. What resulted was the enactment of the "Village Fire Protection Act" and the appointment of three fire wardens and a Fire Chief (J. Campbell). A number of devastating fires and the destruction of at least 5 more hotels in the village in the next few years was a major contributing factor in the development of a formal Fire Department.
By 1913 the community of Central Fort George, who had also formed a Fire Committee, formed the Fort George Citizen's Water Company. They immediately began to lay wooden water mains under the streets of the town site as well as construct a large water tank on Central Avenue to supply water for both domestic needs and fire protection. Water was pumped up from the Nechako River into the reservoir by small gasoline pumps, which often froze in winter.
By 1914 Fire Chief Campbell, in South Fort George, reported the total value of fire equipment as $5,000 consisting of a fire hall, a 60 gallon chemical fire engine, two 33 gallon engines, two fire stations, hook and ladders, ropes, lanterns, buckets and chemicals. The South Fort George Fire Department is considered by many to be the birthplace of the Prince George Fire Department and its Chief J.C. Campbell is remembered as the first Fire Chief of the Department.
It was on March 6th, 1916 when the Prince George Fire Department was officially formed. During the next few decades the Fire Department, with the exception of getting updated fire fighting equipment underwent little growth.
During 1931 the Fire Department placed the 1927 Reo Speed Wagon fire truck in service to replace the chain-driven Ford truck. It was used until 1956 when it was sold to the South Fort George Fire Department for $1.
It remained in use until 1970 when it was returned to the City of Prince George for $1. One year later the Prince George Fire Fighters Association purchased it and it now rests in Hall #4.
By 1964 the Department had grown to two trucks, 11 men, a chief's car, and was located at 7th and Dominion. There were also about 25 volunteer firemen. In addition to fighting fires during their time at the fire hall, the firefighters also operated weigh scales outside of Hall #1.
In 1968 the Fire Department added a second hall at 5th and Ospika. This hall was filled with a ladder truck with a 100-foot extension ladder and PG # 3 and PG #4, two pumpers.
The final and most dramatic amalgamation occurred in April of 1975 when in one giant gulp more than 63,000 acres were absorbed into the city. The area of Prince George increased almost five times to nearly 79,000 acres - about 125 square miles (70 times larger than it was when it was incorporated in 1915). The South Fort George Fire Department was taken over by the Prince George Fire Department. Amalgamation of the Fire Departments in the area also gave the City the Nechako Fire Department on the Hart Highway (called the "Hart Hall"). Before the amalgamation the Fire Department on the Hart was totally independent of the City, and had only two full time members (Dave Ovington and Warren McLean).
As the city grew so did the need for more firefighters and another fire stations. As a result of the growth in 1977 Vanway Fire Hall (Hall #3), was opened to serve the College Heights area.
Another major step in the growth of the Fire Department came in 1980 when Hall #4 was built on the corner of West Austin and Kelly Road South. At this time the original min-pumper (PG #18) and the main pumper (PG #6) were moved from the "Hart Hall" (presently the location of Prince George Search and Rescue) to the new Hall 4.