Before the amalgamation that created the City of Thunder Bay, Fort William and Port Arthur were separate cities each responsible for the needs of their respective communities. Among the most vital services provided by the cities were their Fire Departments. Though many are familiar with the Fire Department as an essential service, the public often only has a vague understanding of its inner workings.

This exhibit details the histories of the Fire Departments of Fort William and Port Arthur, and encourages an appreciation for this vital service which continues to be provided to the City of Thunder Bay. For more information on fire services in the City today please contact, or visit Thunder Bay Fire Rescue.

The Early Days: 1900s to 1920s: A look at the long-forgotten practices of a young community service 

A group of firemen standing in front of a building







Firefighters: Qualifications, training, and working conditions

A group of men standing together in a fire hall, with a firetruck behind them

Duties and Life at the Fire Stations: The working lives of everyday heroes

A group of firefighters standing in front of a fire truck

Fire Chiefs: The leaders of the Fire Departments over the years

A group of men in firefighter uniforms sitting together


Fire Stations: A history of places that have served as base of operations for the Fire Departments

A firetruck sitting out front of the No.2 Fire Station

Firefighting Equipment: The technologies and tools needed for service

A man dressed in a firefighters uniform with hat

 Fire Prevention Activities: The cities' dedication to stopping fires before they start

A cut out section of the 1961 Annual Report

 Cooperation Between the Cities: A united Lakehead before amalgamation

A cut out section of By-Law 5312

 Significant Fires: A sample of the losses witnessed by the Fire Department

Firemen spraying a building with a hose on a downtown street

 Firefighters Lost on Duty: Remembering those who gave their lives for a safer community

A wooden plaque with metal name plates detailing those who had been lost

About this exhibit

This exhibit was created using information and graphic material available to the public from the City of Thunder Bay Archives. The exhibit covers the time period from the inception of the two towns' fire brigades in the late nineteenth century to amalgamation in 1970.

Archival series referred to in this exhibit include the following:

  • Port Arthur City Clerk's Files (Series 29)
  • Port Arthur City Clerk's Agreement Files (Series 34)
  • Fort William City Clerk's Files (Series 4)
  • Fort William Agreements (Series 86)
  • Fort William Annual Reports (Series 16)
  • Thunder Bay City Clerk's Photograph Collection (Series 128)
  • Thunder Bay Fire Department Photograph Collection (Series 129)
  • Fire Insurance Maps
  • Port Arthur Scrapbooks

Some personal information has been removed to protect the privacy of individuals.

For more information on this subject, or any other subject of interest, please visit or contact the City of Thunder Bay Archives.

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