History - Town of Gravenhurst

Gravenhurst Fire Truck

History

In The Beginning

In the beginning, the Gravenhurst Fire Department was nothing more than an unorganized collection of neighbors who came out to help other neighbors when fire struck. Over the years the brigade became more organized and purchased modern equipment.

 In 1887, a very large fire, which began in Mowry and Sons Foundry, quickly spread through the town. When the smoke had cleared 45 families were homeless and over 50 businesses were wiped out.  Although the firefighters had quickly responded with their horse drawn Ronald fire engine, they were unable to make it work.The insurance underwriter's report following the fire had stern criticism of the volunteer brigade, their training and equipment. The recommendations made in the report were followed and the foundation for what is now known as the Gravenhurst  Fire Department was laid.

The fire of 1887 did not destroy the Town Hall and its attached firehall at the corner of Brock and First Streets, however this was not long lived. In July 1897 both buildings burned to the ground.  A new firehall was built on the site and included a bell tower, a garage for the fire engine along with jail cells and a residence for the local police chief.

 

Apparatus

The first self-propelled fire apparatus for the department came in 1924 when a Ford Model T hose and ladder truck was purchased. In 1937 a Ford V8 hose and ladder truck went into service with a 90 gallon soda acid chemical booster tank and 35 feet of hose. This truck remained in service until 1953 when a fully equipped "modern" pumper was purchased. Built by Bickle Seagrave, this truck had a water tank, 500 gallons per minute pump, hose and ladder. In June 1958 the department purchased a 1951 curbside van for $200.00. This vehicle allowed the firefighter's clothing and tools to be carried separately.

Fire Stations

The 1898 firehall remained in use until 1969, when the current Station One was built, one block to the north. The old station was then used to house the local ambulance service until 1973, when it was demolished to make way for a new water tower.

The new firehall was a joint venture with the local police force. It contained an apparatus bay able to house four fire apparatus, a garage for the town police car, large classroom, kitchen, offices and an area for a bunkroom. This arrangement lasted until the formation of District government in 1972. At that time the local police force was disbanded in favour of policing from the Ontario Provincial Police, who had a detachment ten miles north at Bracebridge. As the area used by the police was now vacant, the town administration began to use the facility for extra offices. The town hall offices had been sharing space with the Electric Light and Water Commission on Bay Street since 1919 and had begun to run out of room. By 1974, Station One was also the Gravenhurst Town Hall, an arrangement that existed until August, 2010. The building has since been reclaimed by the Fire Department, Community Policing and the Ontario Provincial Police.

As part of the formation of the District of Muskoka, the Town of Gravenhurst now includes Morrison, Ryde, and part of Wood and Muskoka townships. Providing fire protection to these areas also became the responsibility of the Gravenhurst Fire Department. A new firehall was built on Barkway Road and came to be known as Station Three. Two truck bays were set aside in the Town's Public Works yard on Kilworthy Road and became Station Two.

As the town's administration grew, more space was needed at Station One and an addition was built in 1987. This included apparatus bays for two more trucks, offices for the Chief, Deputy Chief and a classroom to replace those that were taken over by the Town's administration. In 1983 an addition was built onto Station Two to provide a classroom and small kitchen. In 1996 a classroom and kitchen were added to Station Three.

Today the Gravenhurst Fire Department continues to operate out of the three stations with a fleet of ten pumpers, tankers and support units.