The Fire Fighters Historical Society was formed in 1982 by a group of
fighters with an interest in collecting and preserving material related
to the fire service. Mayor William Norrie and city council , through
resolutions authorizing the use of # 2 Fire Station for Museum purposes.
This led to a direction to the Finance Committee to allocate funds to cover
utilities, general maintenance and security within the building.
We are establishing a way to make the history of the Fire Department so interesting that you won’t only want to read it in your daily newspaper. You will want to research further to find out how those men and women of today and yesteryear did their jobs. Following the days of volunteers with horse drawn carriages and the tragic Christmas day loss of their new fire hall, to the powerful apparatus of today. The senior citizens that we speak to today remind us of seeing the magnificent horses running though the streets with the steam pouring behind them. The children of today will remember the sirens blaring, but neither will speak of the men and women behind the job. Today’s fire department functions with safety. In the past, safety was secondary. Men went into raging fires and were exploded back onto the street. These scenes were spectacular. The only thing that fought the fire was sheer courage. These sacrifices were made by the men of a day gone by, many of them were the forefathers of our City. They ventured in, blinded by the smoke, seared by the heat and fulfilled their duties without the protection of air masks and protective clothing.
From the black humor of a fire fighter rescuing a mannequin at a fire to the tragedy of the loss of a family in the cities core, the stories are endless. How many people know of the wonderful fire department horse that refused to be retired and followed the motorized fire apparatus to fires, pulling his milk wagon along? Has anyone heard of our colourful Chief McRobie, who insisted that his horse accompany him for a beer inside a local saloon after every fire? Some people feel that our Museum has its own “resident ghost” - Peter McRae, a young fire fighter, at 56 Maple, who fell to his death in 1915, as he slid down a pole while responding to a fire! With all these wonderful tales to tell, how can we, as a city, deny the citizens the right to relive these moments in history?
This is our cities heritage, the fire department began when Winnipeg was first settled. It was manned by the elite, in a volunteer capacity, that was later passed on to the average citizen. But the elite never failed to attend, they donned their buffalo coats and appeared in groups to observe, thus coining the well known phrase “Fire Buffs”. Today, few fire buffs attend the actual fire, but their numbers across North America and world wide are staggering. Today these “Buffs” appease themselves with museums, web sites, artifacts and books too numerous to give numbers too. Almost every major city in North America has some type of museum dedicated to the fire service, and Winnipeg is fortunate enough have one of the few to be located in a retired fire hall. Just as no one can resist turning their heads to a siren, or gathering where the siren stops, people want to know!
Through the loss of lives, fire prevention was born and regulations became part of Winnipeg Law. From the mayor to the aldermen, fire regulations and codes became an essential way of life. In our Museum, the incorporated efforts of the city council and the Fire Department are also being preserved. Preservation of these details is essential.
Our history speaks for its self. We have developed from the early bucket brigade and hand drawn hose carts to one of the most modern fire departments in North America. We have preserved records of the 1890 St. Johns College fire to the 1994 Home Street fire with four deaths. The past is a story in every sentence. The newspapers covered them vividly. We have captured these moments on slides, photo’s, newspaper clippings and in interviews of the men who were actually there. In today’s eyes, they were heroes beyond compare. These spectacular events have been captured in time and should never be forgotten. The men that lived them and gave their lives to them shall always be preserved in the annals of our Museum. From the past to present day, today’s news is tomorrow’s history. Our Museum is an asset to the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba.
Fighters Museum is operated by the non-profit charitable organization:
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