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Vancouver (B.C.). Fire and Rescue Services
Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- Fire Brigade, 1886-1889
- Fire Department, 1889-1994
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
The volunteer City Brigade was established by City Council (by-law no. 6) on July 19, 1886, further to the provincial Vancouver Incorporation Act of April 6, 1886, which authorized City Council to pass by-laws for the suppression and prevention of fires. The by-law stipulated that the fire brigade would be subject to the authority of City Council's Fire, Water and Light Committee (established May 10, 1886) and that the Fire Chief would be elected annually from among the members of the brigade. Organization of the Volunteer Fire Brigade began in May 1886. (The date of the "great fire" was June 13, 1886.) Over the years the responsibility for the provision of fire suppression services devolved from the provincial Vancouver Incorporation Act and the Fire Marshalls Act (1921-1978), subsequently the Fire Services Act (1978- ). Numerous City by-laws have defined further specifics. For an 1886-1984 Vancouver Fire Department chronology see the inventory in the Reading Room. The following functions have remained quite constant over the years, despite several reorganizations.
(1) Fire fighter training. Carried out from 1886 beginnings, training became more formalized from 1889, when the Fire Department was established. From then until the 1950s Fire Captains of each fire hall provided training and after 3-6 month probationary periods recommended firemen for permanent status as they saw fit. In 1952 a Training Officers Branch was established. From 1971 it has been called the Training Division.
(2) Fire investigation. This function relates to investigation into the causes, origins, and circumstances of fires, and extends to prosecution of cases of arson and false alarms. Carried out by the Fire Chief from 1886 to about 1945, then by the Fire Wardens Branch, and finally, as of 1961, by the Fire Prevention Branch/Division.
(3) Fire prevention and inspection. The provincial government had authorized City Council to be responsible for these functions from the Vancouver Incorporation Act of 1886. From 1892-1906 (Fire By-law no. 162) the Building Inspector was assigned competence for this function, then in 1906, responsibility went to the Fire Department, i.e., to the Fire Wardens (By-laws no. 923, 946, 2193). In 1961 the Fire Wardens Branch became the Fire Prevention Division, which was responsible for enforcing the fire safety standards of the Fire By-law and the Building By-law. Related to the fire prevention and inspection function is dangerous goods regulation, which has been the responsibility of the Fire Chief since 1922 (by-law no. 1517, also 5572).
(4) Fire suppression. This emergency function has, of course, always been the primary function. From its 1886 beginnings as the Volunteer Fire Brigade, through its 1889 formation as a paid force, and up to 1906, competence for fire suppression was vested in the Department, as directly controlled by the Fire Chief, with overall administrative competence City Council's Fire Committee. Fire halls were established as of late summer 1886, the first steam fire engine was working by 1886, and fire boats were kept from the 1930s to the early 1990s. The responsible unit was the Fire Suppression Division from ca. 1975 and the Operations Division from 1994.
(5) Inhalator and rescue services. The inhalator service began in 1930 as the responsibility of several firehalls. In 1942 this function was centralized with the newly created No. 1 First Aid Company of the No. 3 Firehall. The service included emergency response and first aid treatment for drug overdoses, poisonings, heartattacks, accident injuries, burns, smoke inhalation, etc. In 1951 the Rescue and Safety Branch/Division took over the function. More recently rescue services expanded to include underwater search, rescue, and investigation.
(6) Public education on fire hazards and safety. During the early years the function was not formalized, but a logical adjunct to the mandated functions of fire prevention and suppression. During the 1950s the Department engaged in programs with the Vancouver School Board, community centres, the Greater Vancouver Fire Protection Association, the Vancouver Traffic and Safety Council, etc. In 1961 competence for the function was officially taken over by the Fire Protection Branch/Division. As of the 1994 reorganization this has been carried out by the Communications Division.
The predecessor body was the Volunteer Fire Brigade, established by City Council in 1886, which formed the basis for the Fire Department which was established in 1889. Although the name was changed from Fire Department to Fire and Rescue Services in 1994, the latter is a renaming, not a successor body.
The first authority of the Volunteer City Brigade was City Council's Fire, Water and Light Committee (set up in May 1886, before the Brigade was formally organized). Aldermanic committees continued to oversee the Fire Department until July 1956, when the Board of Administration became the management body of the City. The Board evolved into the City Manager in 1974, to which Fire and Rescue Services continues to report.
The internal organization developed as follows. Until the establishment of the Fire Department in 1889, the Volunteer City Brigade elected a Fire Chief from among its members and had an administrative position from August 1886 when a Fire Engineer was appointed. With the establishment of the Fire Department there were 23 staff, including the Fire Chief, engineers, stokers, drivers, and fire fighters; currently the Fire and Rescue Services department has a staff of over 800. Fairly longtime divisional units are described here, along with the 1994 realignments and renamings: the 1994 Operations Division had formerly been called the Fire Suppression Division; the new Support Services Division now encompassed the former Mechanical Maintenance Division and Building Maintenance Division (and added recruitment); the Emergency Medical Services Division became the new term for the former Rescue and Safety Division; a new Communications Division was established (which included a computer services branch); the Finance and Administration Division became the new term for the longtime Administration Division; and the divisions which did not change were the Fire Prevention Division, the Training Division, and the Planning and Research Division.
Name variations have evolved as follows:
- Volunteer Fire Brigade (1886-1889);
- Fire Department (1889-1994);
- Fire and Rescue Services (1994-present).
The Fire Chief has remained the head of the broadly defined fire suppression function from August 1886 to the present, although as of the major City reorganization of 1994 the position is called General Manager of Fire and Rescue Services and Fire Chief. The following individuals have served as Fire Chief: Samuel Pedgrift, 1886; J. Blair, 1886; John Howe Carlisle, 1886-1888; Wilson McKinnon, 1888-1889; John Howe Carlisle, 1889-1928; C. W. Thompson, 1929-1935; A. McDiarmid, 1935-1941; J. H. DeGraves, 1941-1945; E. L. Erratt, 1945-1947; A. E. Condon, 1947-1949; A. R. Murray, 1950-1952; H. S. Bird, 1952-1962; R. R. Jacks, 1962-1969; Armand Konig, 1969-1980; N. Harcus, 1980-1986; D. J. Pamplin, 1986-1993; Glen Maddess, 1993-1998; Ray Holdgate, 1998- .
Minutes of the aldermanic committees which oversaw the Fire Department are in series 33 ("Standing committee minutes"), part of the City Council and Office of the City Clerk fonds.