UNTIL the incorporation of Port Hope with a Board of Police, there was no organization of any sort for the prevention of fires. But one of the the first acts of the new body was the appointment of three fire wardensWm. Lee, Wm. Mitchell and Wm. Furbywhose duties were to inspect all buildings liable to take fire easily, to compel people to place such buildings in safe condition and to see that every householder was provided with buckets and ladders. These fire wardens also directed the efforts of the people at fires. For many years they were appointed annually, and were the sole authorities in connection with conflagrations.
Though a Hook and Ladder Company was formed by William Lee in 1842, its existence was so brief that it could not be called the originator of the present Fire Brigade. The date of the latter’s formation was Jan. l0th, 1846, when a public meeting was held and a Brigade of over sixty members was formed. Fifty buckets and three small engines, purchased from M. F. Whitehead, comprised the apparatus of these early firemen. In February 1849 Rescue engine was purchased from T. Snook of Rochester for $750 and Rescue Fire Company was formed with N. Kirchhoffer as Captain. This engine pumped water from any convenient stream or well in the neighborhood of a fire and was operated by hand-power. Union engine was acquired in 1853, and Victoria engine in 1856 and corresponding companies were formed for them. Hook and Ladder and Bucket companies worked in conjunction with these engine companies.
When the waterworks were introduced, the old apparatus disappeared. Extinguisher Hose Company was formed with a strength of about twenty men, and soon after two Chemical engines were placed at the east and west ends of the Town and companies formed to operate them. These latter companies continued in existence until about 1891 when they were disbanded and five men from each added to the Hose company. On Jan. 1st, 1901, the strength of the Hose Company was reduced to fifteen men, and a well-trained team of horses added to the equipment.
About the year 1850 the main street of Port Hope was occupied with two-storey wooden blocks. By a series of disastrous fires all these old buildings were completely destroyed. The first fire started in the Meredith Block on the south side of Walton street, about 9 p. m. on Jan. 2nd, 1850, and before it was out, the street had been cleared from Queen street up to the future site of the railway track. Shortly after a second fire started in a hotel on the site of the present American hotel and burned up to the Brogdin Block (Tempest Block). Hardly were new structures completed on these sites than a third conflagration cleared out the Brogdin Block, and devastated up to Cavan street. The old wooden Durham House on the corner of John and Walton streets stood through all this destruction until it too went up March 7th, 1859. Within the next few years a number of fine brick blocks north of the Royal Hotel in which the Post Office and Customs House were domiciled, were also destroyed by fire, which originated in the Hatton Block. Then in the year 1865 a serious fire swept away a number of buildings extending from the Opera House to the Y. M. C. A. on John street. The following February a fire originated in Hagerman’s grocery in Quinlan’s Block and owing to the intense cold and the freezing of the engines, destroyed the whole block. Last of the big downtown fires was one which started in Brent’s Drug Store in the new Brogdin Block in July, 1867, and cleared out the whole block and the adjoining Smith Block though both were of brick construction.
Next came a period when incendiaries were at work and mills and factories suffered. Woods Brothers’ Fanning Mill west of the Drill Shed was burned in 1872 ; Butterfield’s Carriage works on Cavan street were destroyed in 1873 ; Molson’s huge flour mill at the Electric Light Pond was consumed in the Fall of 1874 ; and on Sunday morning August 8th, 1880 the famous Car Works on Ontario street were totally destroyed, entailing a loss of $48,000.
Since then several large fires have occurred, notably Barrett’s Mills, Beamish’s Mills and Wallace’s Store House at the wharf in 1885 : the old stone mill, occupied by J. Dyer & Sons, April 21st, 1889 ; the Town Hall, Feb. 3rd, 1893 ; Trinity College School Feb. 16th, 1895 ; and the Opera House, Feb. 13th, 1897.
The Fire Hall was erected in the year 1871 by Messrs. Wallace, Carveth and Fogarty, contractors, for $3, 200. Prior to its occupancy the central fire station was situated on the west side of Ontario street near Walton street. The present Fire Chief is Mr. L. G. Misson.