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History of the
WEST VANCOUVER FIRE SERVICE
Over the years Fire Call Alerting in West Vancouver has changed dramatically from siren, radio, telephone and then 911.
There were Volunteer Fire Brigades set up in West Vancouver as early as 1912 and were equipped with shovels, axes and hose reels that could be pulled to a fire call. The Volunteers were alerted by a hand siren and in the case of Horseshoe Bay; they used a metal triangle and a metal rod to sound the alarm.
Hose reels were originally located at Horseshoe Bay (on the site of the present Horseshoe Bay Motel), foot of south Piccadilly at the home of Captain Frank Kettle, 25th and Marine Drive at the Service Station of Edward Black and finally one at the foot of 14th Street.
In 2006 two hose reels were donated by our society to the residents of Eagle Island and are stored in a shed with other fire equipment. There isn’t a fire brigade on the island. When there is a fire, No. 2 Fire Hall, Horseshoe Bay is the first to respond. For access to the island the responding Firemen would commandeer residents’ boats that are equipped with electric motors. They also could get assistance from the West Vancouver Life Boat Society.
A hand siren was used in Ambleside until 1926 when it was replaced with an electric siren mounted on the hose tower at the Bus Garage.
Word of an alarm was sent to the B.C.Telephone Exchange Operator, who would then send a message to Gemmell Drug Store, up to 11:00 p.m. the siren was sounded by the druggist by a switch at the rear of the drug store. After 11:00 p.m., the call would go directly to the druggist at home and he would alert the Volunteer Chief and the rest of the crew.
This system was in use till about 1937, and then the Fire Calls went to the Police located in the old Municipal Hall. The Police would activate the siren at 14th Street and the Volunteer Firemen would phone the Police for the location. The Bus Garage mechanics would very often start the fire truck ready for the driver. They also contacted the Police by crank phone to get the address for the driver.
In 1947 the Horseshoe Bay residents formed a Volunteer Brigade and the equipment was stored in a building at Douglas Street and Royal Avenue. A siren was installed around that time. In 1958 a second siren was installed on the new Fire Hall.
In 1950 the Ambleside Volunteers received a new more powerful siren, which was referred to as an Air Raid Siren. This was mounted on the separate Bus Garage parallel to Argyle Avenue. In the winter this siren was kept running at low speed and emitted a low growl. It would not start up if it was too cold. This siren stayed in this location till the Bus Garage was torn down.
Caulfeild residents also formed a Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1950 and the old siren from the Bus Garage was moved to the Caulfeild Fire Brigade, June 26th, 1950. It was located on a tower at South Piccadilly Street and Marine Drive. Before they received this siren it is believed that they used a large triangle to sound an alarm. In 1958 a second siren was installed on a tower at the east end of the Great Northern Cannery.