Fire Prevention Week was an important annual event for both the Fort William and Port Arthur Fire Departments. This event became a regular practice across North America in 1922, after an increase in devastating losses over the previous years. Fire Prevention Week was often focused on the particular problems that the cities were having in terms of fire safety. It improved the Fire Departments’ service by ensuring that major risks were not looming, and allowed them to make changes for safety where necessary. This, of course, meant involving the public in prevention education and activities.

Fort William

The firefighters were responsible for carrying out activities during Fire Prevention Week, which usually took place in the first half of October. Events included presentations to schoolchildren, radio announcements, and lectures to inform the public about what to do in the event of a fire. In some years, safety and information films from the National Film Board and the Fire Marshall’s Office were screened. Fire Prevention booklets were distributed as well. The Fire Department worked alongside the Junior Chamber of Commerce, CKPR, and the Daily-Times Journal to make the week a success, and even held a Fire Prevention Booth at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition during the festivities.

Fire Department Annual Report, 1961

A cut out section of the Fire Department's 1961 annual report







Firemen also held fire drill evacuation competitions for schoolchildren, and some of the winning schools over the years included St. Martin’s School, Isabella Street School, and Ogden Street School. Fort William regularly placed well in Fire Prevention Week national ratings. In 1948, Fort William achieved tenth place in Canada, an impressive feat given the number of other cities involved and the enthusiasm of the competition. The Fire Department’s Annual Reports consistently mention the activities and events of Fire Prevention Week every year, and there was always positive feedback.

Luckily, fire fatalities were generally rare in the Lakehead. In 1960, however, the beginning of the year saw five tragic deaths due to preventable fire, with most of the casualties being children. As a result, the Fire Department took up door-to-door inspections with more fervour, deciding that one-on-one contact with homeowners might prevent such tragedies. The campaign was a success, as firefighters were an excellent source of advice on fire prevention, the causes of fire, and changes that could be made to improve safety.

The Fire Department devoted much time to fire prevention measures, as these activities kept safety and awareness in the minds of citizens and business owners. The devotion of individual firefighters is also evident, as many of these community education efforts were performed while off-duty.

Port Arthur

As in Fort William, the Port Arthur Fire Department participated in Fire Prevention Week, and often ran similar activities. First advertised as “Safety Week” in 1920, with a focus on the theme of "Fire and Accident Prevention", Port Arthur continued the tradition annually as Fire Prevention Week. The firefighters were responsible for holding fire drill contests in schools, even blocking off doors to simulate the difficulty of escaping fires. They were also responsible for home inspections during the Week, which were successful in decreasing the number of household fires.

The Port Arthur Fire Department took Fire Prevention Week seriously, and in 1942 had placed second in the national rankings for Educational Activities. The year before this, Port Arthur placed ninth in Canada and second in Ontario for Fire Prevention Week, showing that the Fire Department both cared about fighting fires and had a commitment to prevention and inspection.

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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