When I was a young fellow visiting North Sydney I would often stop in front of the Fire Hall and speak with the gentlemen who seemed always to be sitting there. I knew one or two of them were ex fighters and they were the ones I was interested in speaking to. They were all very interesting and nice guys and most welcoming to anyone who stopped by. CAPER

History of the North Sydney Fire Department
1873 To 2006

In 1873, 13 years before its incorporation, North Sydney acquired a hand pumped fire engine. Quite a stream of water was raised when one end of the hose was set in the habour, a brook or a well. As many men as possible sometimes thirty or forty were pressed into taking turns at the pump. This machine the only North Sydney pumper at the great 1881 fire was used after 1885 as an auxiliary. In 1881 Captain Daniel Lawlor was head of the North Sydney Fire Brigade.

In 1885 the newly incorporated town purchased a steam fire engine built by John D. Ronald at Brussels Ontario and by this purchase it incurred its first indebtedness in the amount of $5,500.00, this was paid off in ten years. With water in its boiler and fire laid ready for lighting below it, in less then 10 minutes after a fire alarm steam was raised with the engine, hauled by a pair of horses, raced to a fire. In 1881 the town excepted Bart Musgrave’s tender of ten dollars for the use of his horses to pull the engine. After a long period of good service the Ronald engine was used for the last time at No 7 in Florence. About 1950 with no public interest the town sold this engine cheaply to be used for scrape metal. The only engine of its kind presently in Nova Scotia is that of Liverpool’s and it is on loan to the firefighter’s museum in Yarmouth Nova Scotia.

The first fire company since the towns incorporation was appointed on December 21, 1885 the members were as fallows: Captain John Nesbit, 1ST Lieutenant Robert Musgrave,  2ND Lieutenant William Tutty, 1ST Hosemen Bart Musgrave and Phillip Nesbit, 2ND Hosemen Archibald Mackenzie and Thomas Keating, Suction Hoseman Joseph Coleman, Axmen Malcolm Gunn and Thomas Nicolas, Firemen Robert Johnston, James Moore, Joseph Moore, George Burke, John Brotchie, Thomas Rudderham, Arthur McDermott, David Scott Jr., Joseph Macintyre, James Lovell, George Green, Wilson Lawlor, Hector Macleod, Norman Gentle, Daniel Macdonald (Saddler), Joseph Tutty, Alexander Dingwall, Alexander Nicholson, John Macgillvary and A.R. Forbes, Secretary. In addition there were also five fire constables appointed: John E Lewis, John Gunn, John Macdonald (Sawyer), Edward Murphy and Alexander Macdonald (Black).

In 1888 the fallowing men were also added to the list of firemen: Edward Young, George P Moffat, William Barry, Alexander Gordon, Henry Lovell, John Allen, George Long, Charles Nisbet, George G Ingraham, William G Scott, Hector Macleod and Daniel Desmond. By 1896 the fallowing had been added when some of the above named dropped out: Joseph Salter, Daniel Morrison, Arthur Lamie, James Cogan, James Connell, Daniel Gannon, A.F. Gannon, Cline MacDonald, Duncan MacKenzie, Robert P Scott, Thomas Grant, John C Robertson, Cornelius Gannon, Abraham Moore, John D. Buchanan, Ronald MacLennan Jr, and Richard Shean.
The first known “fire engine house” was on Commercial Street about the site of the foot of Archibald Avenue. In 1896 it was in poor condition and some repairs were made. After Archibald Avenue was opened the town paid Mrs. M. Gentle $60.00 a year for the rental of the building to house the equipment. In 1913 at a cost of $600.00 the town built a new fire hall on the bottom end of Court Street. In 1932 a two story fire proof building on Commercial Street which had been built by the Gannon brothers was obtained by the town and remodeled as a fire hall. It was then valued at $5,000.00 and the equipment at the time which included a 1919 LeFrance pumper truck was valued at $22,438.00.

A new Fire Station near the Smelt Brook on Pierce Street, completed by the Town in July 1970, was officially opened on October 8, 1971 by Miss Leona Lamie , Miss Nova Scotia for 1971, who cut the ribbon. With a three-bay garage for the accommodation of all the Volunteer Fire Department’s equipment, it also has a meeting hall , driver operator’s room, and the chief’s office.

Since 1919, all the firefighting equipment has been bought by the North Sydney Volunteer Fire Department through its own fund-raising projects such as ticket sales, flea markets and bingo games, which have enabled the members of the Volunteer Fire Department to raise money to buy much needed firefighting equipment, such as, 1919 LeFrance Pumper Motor Truck, valued at $22,438.00, which is no longer used for firefighting, but is still in excellent condition (is used in parades and is on display); Booster Pumper No.3, the ‘A.V. Forbes’, bought in 1955 at a cost of $13,000.00; an aerial ladder truck, the ‘J.S. Munro’,bought in 1959 at  $53,000.00; a hose wagon bought in 1942, a tanker truck and portable generator, bought in 1967, capable of generating 3000 watts to provide powerful light for two flood lamps and a spotlight.
Since the town’s Incorporation, the North Sydney Fire Department has expanded, kept abreast of new firefighting technology and continues to upgrade their equipment. Today, the Fire Department has equipment such as 1977 Ford Pumper-840 GPM, 1978 GMC Tanker-1000 gallon – 625 GPM , 1985 GMC Tanker – 1000 gallon – 840 GPM, 1986 GMC Pumper – 840 GPM,1989 Ford Cube Van – used as a Dangerous Goods Emergency Response Vehicle, 20 foot rubber boat – for water rescue and firefighting, Jaws of Life and much more, High Tech equipment which is all necessary to provide the best possible protection and service to the citizens of the town of North Sydney.

When Heroes are Required

On October 15, 1973, the Department bought the Vooght building from the Estate of the late James Vooght for $70,000.00 and then spent a further $85,000.00 renovating it. On May 15, 1974, the Fire Department had an open- house upon the completion of seven modern classrooms, constructed on the second floor, and rented to the Nova Scotia Department of Education on a 3 year lease for the use of Adult Education Up-grading Classes.

The building was later sold to H.B. Nickerson & Sons Limited. The Bank of Nova Scotia now stands upon the site where the Vooght building stood.

In June of 1989 the North Sydney Fireman’s Club began construction of a new club building. The building is situated directly across the street from the fire station on Pierce Street. At a cost of $300,000.00, the building was officially opened in September of 1990. The building consists of a modern kitchen for use by a very active Ladies Auxiliary, Private club rooms, bar, canteen and a very large dance hall, that can accommodate 500 persons. The Fire Department ‘Bingo Game’ one of the oldest games in North Sydney, now is held in this new hall.

In the latter part of the 19th Century, a fire alarm bell on a prominent wharf was rung to signal firemen working in the vicinity that there was a fire. After the Pumping Station was built at Pottle’s Lake, a whistle, powered by steam, was installed. With long blasts to signal the ward, and short ones for the general area of that ward, it was used for many years. For a time, the alarm was on the Power House. Later, a new blast-type alarm was put on the Fire Hall on Commercial Street. It remained there until November 1971 when it was installed on a 40-foot tower at the rear of the new fire station on Pierce Street.

In 1980, the Fire Department began using a Pager system. This system is operated on a radio frequency. When activated the Pager gives off an alert signal followed by a voice message which gives the location of the fire. A new radio tower 70 feet in height is now located at the fire station. Surrounding Fire Departments in other jurisdictions are now alerted by way of Pagers, activated by on-duty drivers who man the fire station 24 hours a day.

Some members of the North Sydney Fire Department have made successful careers in the Fire Service of Nova Scotia and in private business.

James Walsh, a Fire Chief with the North Sydney Fire Department, was appointed the  Chief Fire Prevention and Safety Officer, with the Cape Breton Development Corporation in 1975. Mr. Walsh developed and implemented Fire Safety Regulation in the coal mines of Industrial Cape Breton. He was active in building new pieces of firefighting equipment, specifically for fighting fire underground. Some of this equipment is still in use today.

Vincent Penney, Assistant Deputy Fire Chief with the North Sydney Fire Department was appointed Deputy Fire Marshal, Office of the Fire Marshal, Province of Nova Scotia in 1984. Mr. Penney is still active with the Fire Department as a Volunteer Firefighter. He is the son of the late Willard Penny, who was a member of the North Sydney Fire Department for 35 years.

Many members of the Fire Department have been honored by the Department with presentation of long-service plaques: Stanley Hare 1937 – 1972, Dorman Hollingsworth 1918 – 1972, Thomas Lamie 1927 – 1964, and William Wilkie 1913 – 1968.

He is Heading  in and we are Heading out

Members of the Department have also received medals from the Federal Government such as the “Fire Service Exemplary Medal “and the Province of Nova Scotia “Long Service Medal “.

In 1997 the members of the North Sydney Fire department decided it was time to update some of their ageing equipment. The membership requested a group of members to become a Truck Committee this consisted of Firefighters Vince Penny, Lloyd Macintosh, Ev Andrews, Calvin Guy, Donnie Brogan, and Andy Green as some members left this committee the fallowing people were added Wade Gouthro, Les Spicer AKA (Burger).

In 1998-1999 the Committee was trying to negotiate a deal with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality which would help out some of the outlying rural departments as well as our own department. With a deal agreed upon we sent one truck to Georges River Fire Department this truck was known as the Wilkie. Next we sent a truck to Sydney and this truck was known as the Vooght, with these units going to other fire departments and plans underway for our new pumper.

The face of North Sydney Fire was changing, with this deal underway and our Arial ladder not getting any younger we managed to acquire a used Arial ladder from Grand Lake Road Fire Department. This unit is a 1988 ford telesquirt and it replaced the 1959 LeFrance Arial ladder known as the Munro. The Munro was sold to Doug Cavanaugh.

Horse Drawn Fire Reels

Through months of work and dedication the North Sydney Fire Department took delivery of and FL80 Freightliner in June of 2000 this truck was valued at $261,000. This was a big undertaking because the members through fundraising efforts had to raise a quarter of a million dollars to pay for this unit. Upon receiving this unit there was another truck given to a rural department this truck was known as the Hollingsworth.

In 2001 North Sydney Fire Department purchased one of the first Thermal Imaging Cameras east of Halifax. This unit will help firefighters see through smoke and find victims in less time. The unit was valued at $42,000 once again this unit will be paid for through fundraising efforts.

In 2002 North Sydney fire purchased a 23 foot Hurricane Rescue Craft for water rescue.

In 2004 the North Sydney Fire Department purchased a Ford F350 4×4 Club Cab to assist with water rescue, Wild land fires and personnel transport. This unit was valued at $25.000.

In 2005 North Sydney Fire Department paid off in full the FL80 freightliner that cost a quarter of a million dollars. This was done through the fundraising efforts of the membership and five years ahead of schedule.

The Way We Were

(Note even the horse’s hooves were polished – must have been great living in such an era. CAPER)

In 2006 North Sydney is once again looking at updating an ageing piece of equipment. The North Sydney Fire Department Truck Committee Consisting of Jerry LeMoine, Lloyd Macintosh, Les Spicer, Nelson Scott, Lawrence Briand and Wade Gouthro are currently starting to plan a new heavy rescue unit which will be replacing our current rescue 6 other wise known as the Walsh. Through the efforts of the Truck Committee we are hope to be placing and order for a new heavy rescue in late 2006 or early 2007.                      

Fire Chiefs of the North Sydney Fire Department have been as follows:
     Daniel Lawlor                     1873 to 1885
     John Nisbet                         1885 to Date Unknown
     Edward G. McCullough    Dates unknown
     Breton R. Rice                    1906 to 1914
     Neil McInnis                       1914 to 1916
     G.M. Willis                         1916 to1946
     William Parsons                 1946 to 1959
     Edward Willis                    1959 to 1972
     James Walsh                      1972 to 1975
     William Moores                 1975 (Interim )
     Ross Ferguson                   1975 to 1984
     Ev Andrews                       1984 (Interim )
     James Walsh                     1984 to 1991
    Ev Andrews                         1991 to 1998
    Jerry Lemoine                    1997 (interim)
    Jerry LeMoine                    1998 to 2007
    Lloyd MacIntosh             2007 to Present

(I notice the name of a childhood friend in Ev Andrews who used to vacation in Alder Point with Harley Boudreau and we all played together. Years later on occasion I would see Ev operating a service station on Commercial Street and then at the Yacht Club. CAPER)


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