Beating Fire and the Competition!
The Fire Department
The first fire department was started on a volunteer basis in 1896, with 18 charter members, under the leadership of Chief E.J. Carson and Assistant Chief C. Scully. All the equipment was bought through fundraising and donations. As early as 1898 an electric fire alarm system was installed in Rossland, with 10 alarm boxes installed throughout the town. By 1900 the fire department owned three horse-drawn carts all equipped with ladders, hoses, and other important equipment.
The Hose Reel
In 1896, the Rossland Water & Light Company installed 6 fire hydrants in the city of Rossland to help fight the fires which were all too common in the mining camp. That same year, civic-minded citizen Mr. Lalonde, gathered the funds to buy the camp 500 feet of fire hose, and two hose nozzles. This hose was a source of pride for the local firemen, a symbol of their sophisticated equipment and dedication to the safety of Rossland. Hose reel racing would become a common pastime for the firefighters and demonstrated the strong camaraderie that existed between members of the volunteer force.
The Fire Hall
The beautiful Fire Hall remains one of the most noteworthy heritage buildings in Rossland. The hall was constructed in 1900 to serve as the headquarters for the Rossland Fire Department, becoming operational in early 1901. The building was designed to cater to all of the needs of the fire department, with lodging in the upper levels, stables in the back for horses, and three large arched doorways to allow for the speedy exit of the horse-drawn carts. In 1961 the bell tower was removed, but in 1992 it was rebuilt with the original bell, nicknamed ‘Stella’, now sitting on display in the fire hall lower level. Shortly after the building was opened, it also became the site of City Hall, which explains the engraving of ‘City Hall, 1901’ on the side of the building. Eventually, the requirements of the fire department outgrew the capabilities of the old fire hall: the arched doorways were too small for modern motor trucks to fit through easily, and the floors not sturdy enough to support the increasingly heavy vehicles and gear being used.
Firefighting in the Present
Firefighting remained a constant throughout Rossland as the years past. While Rossland’s miners became replaced with skiers and Cominco commuters, the need for fire safety remained, and the fire department continued to focus on improving their fire safety, with the help of any funding they could get. New heavier equipment led the department to move to a new fire hall built on Second Avenue, just half a block from the original heritage building, where the department remains to this day. The department is no longer an autonomous unit, but rather a branch of the regional fire safety department organized through the Regional District of the Kootenay Boundary. The Rossland department is staffed by up to 25 paid on-call firefighters, as well as supported by many much needed volunteers.