THE HISTORY OF THE LUMBY & DISTRICT VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
Before the beginning of the 50’s if you had a fire that couldn’t be contained by the preverbal “bucket brigade”, one had to wait until the Vernon Fire Department could respond with a pumper truck.
That’s when a few of Lumby’s concerned citizens took matters into their own hands and started the first unofficial “fire brigade”. With nothing but an auxillary pump and some hose, coveralls, and some rubber boots they began to protect the community. These men were; Cecil Wills, Larry Wejr, Sonny Inglis, Bill Borgens, Charles Zamis and Don Gallacher.
Then in 1952 the Lumby Fire Protection District was formed. A loan of $20,000.00 was approved to cover the costs of purchasing a fire truck and to build a fire hall. A lease was obtained from the Lumby Timber Co. for the land to build the hall on, and Lumby Timber Co. also donated most of the lumber used for the building. “The volunteer members then constructed a fire hall.”
Although the original hall was replaced many years later and has gone through numerous changes and expansions to fit the growing population, it is still located on the original site. The members donated all the furnishings themselves. The originals desk donated by Bell Pole was actively in use until 2005 in the fire hall.
|Lumby Fire Department 1958
The charter members of the very first Lumby Fire Protection District were;
Cecil Wills, (first appointed Chief, due to his experience as a member of the Vernon Fire Department), Charles Zamis, Assistant Chief and Larry Wejr, Secretary and the firefighters were; Matt Adams, Bob Blaney, Henry Catt,
Don Gallacher, Harold Hill, Charlie Johnson, Sonny Inglis, Barney McAllister,
Joe Martin, Raymond Olson, Walter Trusler and Carroll Willems.
The fall of 1952 saw the first official fire truck make its home at the new fire hall. A brand new 1952 GMC Bickle Seagrave Pumper Truck. Charles Zamis drove this truck from Woodstock, Ontario to its home here in Lumby, and it was still in service until the early 90’s. It has since been restored and has its place of honor at the fire hall. “Truck 52” takes part in the Vernon Winter Carnival Parade, Cherryville Days, Lumby Days and the Armstrong IPE, winning many ribbons and first place trophies.
Getting water to a call proved to be a work of art in the beginning, as there were no fire hydrants in those days. Water had to be pumped from the creek that flows through town, to the pumper, and then from the pumper to the fire.
In 1953 a $200.00 grant was approved and together with monies the members had raised through various fundraisers, additional fire fighting equipment, rubber boots and hard hats were purchased. A $3,500.00 operating cost was borrowed and later repaid through property taxation.
The very first fire recorded was at 2:15 am on the 12th of November 1952. The site was the old Hiway garage owned by Pete Shumko.
The first major fire came on June 19, 1955 at 10:30 am in the former Bloom & Sigalet Garage. The building was partially destroyed by fire but was repaired and still stands proudly on the corner of Miller St. and Shuswap Ave. This building is now part of Lumby’s heritage and houses many small businesses such as a Board Shop and Frieda’s Pizza as well as apartments upstairs.
1972 saw the purchase of the next fire truck. Reg Blaney, a village of Lumby employee and a volunteer member of the brigade, accompanied by his wife, took the train to Montreal, Quebec and began the long journey back to Lumby with a shiny new 1972 Thibault Pumper.
The early 70’s (exact year unknown) saw the purchase of Lumby’s first tanker truck. A 1969 GMC cab over tanker. The tank on this truck was refurbished in approximately 1984 and was desperately chugging along until its retirement in 2005, replaced by a Freightliner Tanker in 2005.
1982 marked the year for the purchase of 2 new pumper trucks. A 1981 GMC and a 1982 International, both purchased at the same time from King Seagraves of Ontario. The international was finally retired in 2006 replaced by a 65 foot Telesquirt ladder truck from American LaFrance.
Following this, in 1992 a Ford 4x4 Rescue truck was purchased to transport the “Jaws of Life”. 1994 saw the addition of a Freightliner Crew-Cab Tanker, and in 1998 a new Freightliner Pumper truck replaced the 1972 Thibault and the 1981 GMC.
1999, after many fundraisers and donated hours the “Volunteer Members” purchased a 1996 Ford 4x4 Public Safety vehicle. It also serves as a secondary “Jaws of Life” unit, a re-habilitation centre, and as an Incident Command Unit in the event of a large scale emergency.
The method of reporting a fire and alerting the members has also come a long ways. In the beginning a person would locate a firefighter and have that person then run to the hall and set off a roof top siren. Next came the telephone paging system. This system had special telephones put into the officer’s homes. If you were in need of assistance, these phones would ring if you dialed the fire department phone number. The first officer to answer the phone obtained the location and the details of the emergency. To alert the firefighters, he then pushed a button on the phone, which in turn, set off both the rooftop and the downtown sirens. Many years later came the addition of pagers to coincide with the telephone system. Through this pager system, the volunteer firefighters can now be alerted via a central dispatch unit operated by the Vernon Fire Department simply by dialing 911.
Until the arrival of full personal protective gear, known as “bunker gear” or “turn-out gear” in the early 80’s, the men only had coveralls and a canvas jacket to keep them safe. The suits purchased were still in use by the fire department until suits that met the National Fire Safety Standards replaced them in the winter of 1995.
Over the years, fire fighting techniques, knowledge, protective equipment, safety guidelines, advanced equipment and training has come along way in making the job safer. Combine this together with the many different men and women that have served the community over the years, it is little wonder why the Lumby & District Volunteer Fire Department is one of the best in the North Okanagan.
PAST FIRE CHIEFS:
Cecil Wills 1952 – 1962
Henry Catt 1962 – 1963
Don Gallacher 1963 – 1975
Irwin Dilts 1975 – 1989
Bob Bourne 1989 – 1990
Glen Waite 1990 – 1991
Rick Ostrass 1991 – 1993
Dewey Thompson 1993 – 1993
Rick Ostrass 1993 – 2002
Tony Clayton 2002 – Present
The Lumby Fire Department has also had the pleasure of seeing not only 2nd generation fire fighters but also a few 3rd and 4th generation fire fighters come through the service.
Reg Blaney ~ Ray Ostrass ~ Rick Ostrass ~ Brandon Ostrass
Parky Derry ~ Gary Derry ~ Cory Derry and his sister Courtney Derry
George Major ~ Brian Major ~ Bryce Major and his sister Carley Major
Irwin Dilts ~ Jack Dilts
Wally Howkins ~ Randy Howkins
Bill McGiverin ~ Ryan McGiverin (now a career fire fighter in Vernon)
Jeff Francis Sr. ~ Jeff Francis Jr
Steve Jolie ~ sons Tyler Jolie & Shane Jolie
Don Conte ~ Matt Conte
Mike Clayton ~ Scott Clayton (Uncle Tony is the Chief)
Richard Melvin ~ Robert Melvin (Auntie Shelagh is a Captain)
The information for this article was researched and obtained via the memories of some of our founding members and/or long time serving members of the Lumby Fire Department as well as Larry Wejr’s article in the “Grassroots to Treetops.” Our sincerest apologies if there are any names that have been misspelled or forgotten or if any of the dates are incorrect.