Clearwater Fire Department to reach 50-year milestone

A look at the organization through the decades

By K.A.Pendergast

It all began in 1967, which was a particularly bad year for local fires. The property damage, according to local RCMP records, totaled, more than $70,000 dollars and included the laundry and wash house at the Dutch Lake Resort, at least one home, a fire at the ballpark, and a local landmark, which was a homestead cabin built by a Mr. Fowler in 1898 that the owners of the Dutch Lake Resort were hoping to turn into a museum, as well as a couple of long-standing cabins nearby.

Something needed to be done.

Meetings were soon held by The Clearwater Recreation Commission and with the public’s help there was a committee elected to discuss fire protection and to organize a fire brigade, and hopefully later, to purchase a tanker. These members included John Elliot, H. Zinzer, Ken Dunford, Mr. and Mrs. Pye and Bill Mattenley.

On December 21, 1967 a call went out to get local volunteers. In January of 1968, a film was sent from the Provincial Fire Marshall to help in training the Clearwater Volunteer Fire Brigade and things were heating up. Later in the year, a women’s Auxiliary was formed to canvas for donations for the fire truck and old toys were repaired to be sold at the No-Host Bazaar in December.

It was asked of everyone, “Won’t you be generous when the volunteer firefighters call?—the family you save may be your own.” The generous Clearwater people helped the Ladies Fire Brigade auxiliary raise $776 towards the truck and it was bought with the pump and fittings ordered.

Clearwater Fire Department adds building to facility

The tank had already been donated, as well as the land for the soon to be built fire hall, and 1969 was the official year of the Beginning of the Clearwater Volunteer Fire Brigade. In spite of the early and extensive planning, it was a large undertaking.

The first fire hall was built that same year with land donated by Verla Capostinsky. The first list of volunteers for the brigade reads as follows: Charlie Townsend, Ray Donnelly, Henry Plugoway, Alex Kinzel, Fergie Musselman, Jack Liebe, Bert Sedor, Art Gillan, Duane Sutherland, John Foster, Dave Alyea, Henry and Dennis Gouldhawke, Joe Wadlegger, Art Mayer, Wilf Lawson and Bill Mattenly.

The first acting fire chief was Roy Donnelly. Luckily the Thompson-Nicola Regional District fit a portion of their money in the budget for the year. The Clearwater Times printed a small article in March of 1970 asking locals to, “Watch out for your friendly fireman soon. The Clearwater Volunteer Fire Department will be around distributing fluorescent stickers with emergency phone numbers in the Clearwater area.”

The brigade was practicing and getting quicker by the day as a call to Camp Two had them pumping water a mere 12 minutes after it was received.

A second vehicle was purchased in 1971 and helped haul foam equipment, a spare hose and the auxiliary pump. The upgrades over the years in the general equipment and fire fighting techniques are shocking. We need to protect those who serve us too.

“The fires haven’t changed, we have, the construction has, the gear, people and techniques, and trucks have,” said longest serving, current member Guy Holland.

The newest truck that arrived in late 1972 was shown off at the May Day parade the next spring and has become a tradition. The volunteer fire department is always an integral part of our local May Day celebrations just as it’s become a large part of our ever-changing community.

The Clearwater Times reported on April 28, 1976 that Clearwater was host to 60 firefighters and the occasion saw the South-Central Fire Fighters College, as well as many areas of the province, represented with displays and learning for all involved, including a demonstrations of the new ‘Jaws of Life” which are now an integral part of rescue operations.

It was reported in October 1977 that in the past 10 years in Canada there had been 703,000 fires with 7,500 deaths and $2,952,000,000 in property damage. The local fire department at the time held a display to help raise awareness and funds and some of the logos seen were: “Stamp Out Fire” and “Fight Fires by Preventing Them.”

In 1978 the smoke detector was catching on in the area and things were looking up. The saving of lives for the department is all part of the everyday norm for our local volunteers and the equipment upgrades, past and present, keep our fighters in form to make those rescues.

The local merchants and organizations have naturally continued their support of our volunteers with a donation in 1978 by the Lions Club of $16,000.

That’s just a little of what happens to make those courageous citizens trained enough to take the time out of their lives to make the rest of us more able to enjoy our own. Over the years there were new events involving competitions for regular citizens and firefighters alike to continually raise funds for newer equipment and upgrades that are always needed in the battle to keep us safe.

A list of the fire chiefs over the years includes: Ray Donnelly 1969-1972, Bert Sedor 1972-1973, Art Mayor 1973-1974, Art Gillian 1974-1979, Henry Plugoway 1979-1980, Bill Sim 1980-1982, Bernie Richardson 1982-1985, Art Davidson 1985-1986, Bernie Richardson 1986-1996, Mark Salden 1996-2008, Mike Smith 2008-to present.

To be continued…

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