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October 8th to October 14th is National Fire Prevention Week. This week the Selkirk Fire Department will be working closely with elementary schools to teach children the importance of fire prevention. It is very important to learn how to stay safe around fire but also to know how to prevent them from happening.

Some important tips to keep in mind.

  1. Always keep your eyes on your food when cooking. If you ever need to leave the area turn off whatever you are using to cook whether it is a stove or barbeque.
  2. If you have a space heater give it room to breathe. Make sure it is more than three feet away from anything that can catch fire. This includes walls, carpet, boxes, and toys.
  3. Blow out candles when you leave the room. Make sure they are at least one foot away from anything that can catch fire.

It is very important to make sure we are all doing our part to keep ourselves and others safe by preventing fire from happening. Before Selkirk was a town, when it was known as the Red River Settlement, Selkirk’s fire protection was a bucket brigade. A bucket brigade is where a line up of people pass buckets of water to each other and the last person throws it on the fire. There was no fire department so these people were just regular settlers in the settlement. In both 1894 and 1896 there were fires that destroyed 20 buildings. After, the settlers established a fire brigade that had 12 to 15 men and had a horse drawn chemical engine. Because buildings were primarily made of wood, buildings were more likely to catch fire. These fire fighters were called smoke eaters because they had nothing to protect them from the fire. They would take in a big gulp of air, run into the building, then run out to replenish their need for oxygen.

Horse drawn carriages from 1906
Horse Drawn Wagons, 1906, Ted Wozny
The Selkirk fire department crew from 1910
Selkirk Fire Department, 1910

Four years later in 1900 the Waterous engine and a 1500 feet hose replaced the horse drawn chemical engine. The Selkirk Civic Centre stands where the first Selkirk Fire Hall was. The town fire alarm was the Christ Church bell. At this time the Waterous engine was still pulled by a horse. The first motorised fire engine was introduced in 1930 and Selkirk also got two 1929 Chevy trucks named “Maggie” and “Jiggs.”

The fire department moved to Main Street in 1928 until 1963. The new fire alarm attached to the structure of Selkirk water tower. It was so loud that people could hear it outside of town limits. The fire hall was once again moved in 1963 by town council. The fire fighters were not happy. Jack Maloney and Frank Hooker tried to drop pamphlets from a small airplane to persuade the townspeople of Selkirk to vote to keep the fire department on Main Street. However, Maloney wasn’t able to take off and the vote was passed that the fire department would be moved to Eaton Ave as part of a new office complex.

The inside of the fire hall in 1940
First Fire Hall, 1940-1960, Ted Wozny

Frank Hooker has a Fire Driving Award named after him and a story to go with it. He was on the way to a fire with his brother. They jumped into a fire truck and took a sharp turn and hit his own vehicle with the fire truck. He had parked his vehicle too close to the fire hall. The Fire Driving Award is awarded to a fire fighter that is involved in a humorous minor incident that isn’t life threatening. Many firefighters have received the award over the years to keep a sometimes-challenging job light, and to boost camaraderie.  

Now fire fighters have lots of equipment to help keep themselves safe while fighting the fires. They have fire hoses, portable fire pumps, fire reels, fire monitors, and fire fighting nozzles. They wear fire helmets, turnout pants and jackets, fire gloves and boots, and have a personal alert safety system. The PASS system alerts fire fighters that another fire fighter in the area is in distress and needs assistance.

Always make sure you and your family are fire smart. Make sure you know the fastest and nearest fire escapes in your home, workplace, school, grocery store, or any building you are in. Know where your fire extinguishers are, how to use them, and replace them when they expire. There is so much that we can all do to keep everyone safe from fires.

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