A wooden plauqe with metal name cards listing those who have passedGiven the demands and risks involved on the job, it is a tragic reality that some firemen become injured or lose their lives while performing a life-saving service. Though Fort William and Port Arthur were lucky enough not to mourn the loss of many of their firefighters, there still remain a brave and honoured few who were willing to risk their lives in the service of others.

The plaque on the right was created by the Port Arthur Fire Department to honour the members of the Department who had passed away, both on the job and after retirement. The plaque was located in the Central Fire Hall, and was placed there in September of 1959, with additional names added later. The plaque was created the same year that three members tragically died in an airplane crash.

For Fort William, the firemen lost in the line of duty are as follows:

  • Deputy Fire Chief Archie McEwen, November 15, 1940, while putting out a fire at the Mandarin Café.
  • Thomas Ross, November 15, 1940, also while putting out a fire at the Mandarin Café. Five other firemen were injured in this fire: Nemo Melloff, Harold Lockwood, Gordon Tennant, Rod McKenzie and Jack Sambray. Sambray and Melloff appeared unharmed immediately after the fire, but the next day showed ill-health due to smoke and gas inhalation.
  • Harold Carson, January 18, 1960, died during a fire due to asphyxiation and a coronary heart attack. His was the first of three on-duty deaths in the Lakehead during 1960.

For Port Arthur, the firemen lost in the line of duty are as follows:

  • Lieutenant Walter Tilson, February 21, 1960, died of heart failure due to stress and shock. He had been a member of the Fire Department for almost 20 years. His death spurred a controversy regarding the health and safety of the fire department members. His death was met with suggestions that firefighters should have Department-sponsored annual medicals to ensure that they were in good health and able to handle the pressures and dangers of the job. Several other cities, such as Hamilton and Kingston, had implemented compulsory medical exams. Debate centred around the question of whether medical exams should be sponsored by the Fire Department, or arranged privately by individual firefighters, as the firefighters were expected to understand the risks associated with their job. The dispute was settled after the appointment of a personnel officer, and the City decided not to enforce compulsory medical exams the following year. The City did not, however, prohibit the issue from future consideration.
  • William Arrill, October 21, 1960 while fighting a fire. This undoubtedly added extra pressure to the annual medical exam controversy, as his death occurred exactly 8 months after Walter Tilson’s, and the similarity caused worry about the firefighters’ well-being.

These lists extend only until 1970, and may not be complete.

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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