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A Century of Firefighting 

Published by the Joint Fire Prevention Publicity Committee Inc. in the early 1960s, this poster shows fire fighting over the years. It begins with the “Bucket Brigades” and the technologies of the early 1800s, and moves towards the modern era. Some equipment is displayed, such as the hose reels, the steam fire engine, and the Fire Chief’s “speaking trumpet”, which was later replaced by radio technology. The bottom left corner depicts a pumper truck, one of the basic necessities of any Fire Department.

By 1961, Port Arthur and Fort William each had two pumper trucks. Port Arthur’s pumper trucks were capable of pumping 625 gallons of water per minute and 500 gallons per minute. Fort William’s pumper trucks were capable of pumping 625 gallons of water per minute and 600 gallons per minute. Five years later, Fort William made a request for a new fire pumper, which would be a Mercury Truck Model M-700 from Port Arthur’s Consolidated Motors, at a cost of nearly $5,000 (it would be “reconditioned”, not brand new).

Captions on the poster read:

Top Left: “The Bucket Brigade in action- getting water directly to the fire or the pumper. The three-gallon buckets were of leather, tooled with the owner’s name. With the cry, “Throw out your buckets,” everybody joined in to lend a hand.”

Centre Top: “For the small boy, what a sight was the belching steam pumper, its magnificent horses, and its men of courage and muscle. But it took ten minutes for the steamer to build up its pressure.”

Centre Left: “The early hose reel might carry only 900 feet of heavy riveted leather hose. The rival communities were proud of the speed with which their hose could be laid and brought to the fire.”

Centre: “The invention of the steam fire engine in 1828 in England opened a new age. But for the rest of the century, the hand pumper with its condenser was the principal tool. It was drawn by horse or man power. Many pumpers were beautifully and artistically decorated.”

Centre Far Right: “The elaborate speaking trumpet used by the Fire Chief of old in directing his brigade. Loud hailers, walkie-talkies and mobile telephones do the job these days.”

Bottom Left: “The modern pumper is essential for the protection of the community. It may carry 500 gallons of emergency water, more than 1,500 feet of hose, and cost up to $25,000. It, too, is manned by men of muscle, courage and skill.”

Bottom Right: “Fire Fighters of the 20th century are highly trained in the war against fire, and use the best equipment available. But the best fires they fight are those that do not happen. These they fight by fire prevention inspection of the home and industry, and by education of the people they serve.”

City of Thunder Bay Archives Series Number: 29
TBA: 2556-04