Early Years of Lethbridge Fire and EMS

Lethbridge has had an active firefighting service since a volunteer fire brigade started in 1886 made up mainly of North West Mounted Police and willing bystanders. City leaders constantly struggled to balance the need for good fire protection, which lowered its insurance costs and provided safety for its population, with the costs of having paid fire personnel. By 1909, a paid force was in place although its members were paid only if they attended training and for each fire they actively fought.

Obtaining up-to-date equipment and vehicles was constantly a challenge as was finding the most effective fire alarm system. The first alert was the ringing of a large brass bell located above the door of Higinbothams Drug Store. Unfortunately, the sound of this bell was often carried away by the wind and many times fire fighters never heard the signal. Horses were the main source of transport for men and equipment until gasoline vehicles started to replace them in 1912.

Fire prevention was always a primary concern beginning in the 1890s when the storage of combustible materials was regulated. Commercial building inspections began about the same time and eventually residential buildings were added to annual inspection tours carried out by the early fire chiefs.

Emergency medical care, in the early years of the city, was provided by available doctors and nurses and the Galt Hospital ambulance. In 1912, Lethbridge fire department took over the operation of the ambulance and this was the beginning of the city’s integrated fire and emergency medical service.

The brand new exhibit We Are Here to Serve: Fire & EMS opens on Saturday, February 6, 2016 at the Galt Museum & Archives. Guests are invited to the Curator Presents opening event on Sunday, February 7 from 2–3 pm to hear a special presentation by Deputy Fire Chief Dana Terry.

ArticleWendy AitkensComment