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North River Fire Department an anchor in the community for 41 years


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Last year, North River and District Fire Brigade celebrated its 40th year serving the North River Community.

At a banquet held earlier this year, six dedicated members were awarded 40-year service awards marking this special occasion.

I wanted to learn more about this important fixture in our community so I recently sat down with Ed Franklin, one of the brigade’s founding members. Franklin also served as chief for the first year that the department was in operation.

Franklin recalls how members of the community identified the need for a fire department when a local barn burned to the ground and several horses were lost in the fire. The nearest fire department was in Truro and for those living farther out in rural North River, this was unsettling.

“It was about March that we first started to organize,” said Franklin. “Of course things were a little different back then. When we started out we didn’t have anything, so everything was done by the community.”

The organizers started trying to raise money and were ecstatic when a piece of land was donated by Foster MacKenzie.

The wood for building was donated by Ronnie Horne in the form of trees on a wood lot. Community members brought power saws to Horne’s Woodlot on Nuttby Mountain and cut down trees to be used for the project. The logs were then hauled out by two teams of horses and taken by Lorne Cole to Bill Gorman’s sawmill to be sawn into lumber.

The brigade organizers became their own mill crew working together to saw all of the lumber for the construction project.

Once sawed, the lumber was then taken to another location to be dressed and then shipped back to the fire hall building site. At this time the carpenters in the group lead the others and everyone pitched in to build the structure that became North River’s first fire hall.

A truck for transporting brigade equipment to fires was donated by Don Roode. It was a half -ton truck that had belonged to Irving Oil. Community members equipped the truck with a portable Wajax pump, 500-feet of 1.5-inch hose and six backpacks, all borrowed from the Department of Lands and Forests.

While the fire hall was being built the truck was stored at a barn close by. Franklin recalls with a chuckle the very first fire call the brigade responded to. The truck would not start and they had to wait for enough firemen to arrive to push the truck to get it started.

The first meeting in the finished hall was held in November of 1972, eight short months after planning began.

When asked what made the building efforts so successful Franklin said that it was the combination of skills. “Some community members joined the brigade and some just helped out, but there were a lot of skills there.”

The brigade’s first tanker truck was built by members of the brigade as well. A 1963 Chev truck was purchased from Brookfield Creamery and a tank was purchased from a local oil company. The truck underwent extensive repairs and alterations and was put into service in 1973.

In 1975, a new building known as the Recreation Hall was built to the left of the original structure and a third truck bay was later added to join the two buildings. In 1990 a new kitchen, stage and basement recreation room were added to the hall.

The community was very resourceful when it came to raising money for this endeavour. Tickets were sold on everything from a side of beef to a homegrown chicken donated by a member of the department. There were also dances, a yearly auction and 50/50 draws.

The brigade also held an annual carnival for many years. It consisted of concession stands (built by members), games, hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, live entertainment and a beauty contest. Members of the department were judged on evening apparel, talent and bathing suits (often borrowed from sisters and wives) and the winner would come back the next year to defend his title as ‘Miss North River.’

Now in its 41st year, North River and District Fire Brigade continues to be a life force in the community regularly holding dances and fund-raisers as well as many special community events. The future looks bright for this dedicated group of men and women and for the community that they serve.

Congratulations North River and District Fire Brigade on 40 years of hard work.  

Tagline: Julie Johnstone is a married mother of two school-aged children, fiddle and step dance teacher and a community volunteer. She lives in North River. If you have any community news to report, send it to her at jamesandjulie@eastlink.ca.

Last year, North River and District Fire Brigade celebrated its 40th year serving the North River Community.

At a banquet held earlier this year, six dedicated members were awarded 40-year service awards marking this special occasion.

I wanted to learn more about this important fixture in our community so I recently sat down with Ed Franklin, one of the brigade’s founding members. Franklin also served as chief for the first year that the department was in operation.

Franklin recalls how members of the community identified the need for a fire department when a local barn burned to the ground and several horses were lost in the fire. The nearest fire department was in Truro and for those living farther out in rural North River, this was unsettling.

“It was about March that we first started to organize,” said Franklin. “Of course things were a little different back then. When we started out we didn’t have anything, so everything was done by the community.”

The organizers started trying to raise money and were ecstatic when a piece of land was donated by Foster MacKenzie.

The wood for building was donated by Ronnie Horne in the form of trees on a wood lot. Community members brought power saws to Horne’s Woodlot on Nuttby Mountain and cut down trees to be used for the project. The logs were then hauled out by two teams of horses and taken by Lorne Cole to Bill Gorman’s sawmill to be sawn into lumber.

The brigade organizers became their own mill crew working together to saw all of the lumber for the construction project.

Once sawed, the lumber was then taken to another location to be dressed and then shipped back to the fire hall building site. At this time the carpenters in the group lead the others and everyone pitched in to build the structure that became North River’s first fire hall.

A truck for transporting brigade equipment to fires was donated by Don Roode. It was a half -ton truck that had belonged to Irving Oil. Community members equipped the truck with a portable Wajax pump, 500-feet of 1.5-inch hose and six backpacks, all borrowed from the Department of Lands and Forests.

While the fire hall was being built the truck was stored at a barn close by. Franklin recalls with a chuckle the very first fire call the brigade responded to. The truck would not start and they had to wait for enough firemen to arrive to push the truck to get it started.

The first meeting in the finished hall was held in November of 1972, eight short months after planning began.

When asked what made the building efforts so successful Franklin said that it was the combination of skills. “Some community members joined the brigade and some just helped out, but there were a lot of skills there.”

The brigade’s first tanker truck was built by members of the brigade as well. A 1963 Chev truck was purchased from Brookfield Creamery and a tank was purchased from a local oil company. The truck underwent extensive repairs and alterations and was put into service in 1973.

In 1975, a new building known as the Recreation Hall was built to the left of the original structure and a third truck bay was later added to join the two buildings. In 1990 a new kitchen, stage and basement recreation room were added to the hall.

The community was very resourceful when it came to raising money for this endeavour. Tickets were sold on everything from a side of beef to a homegrown chicken donated by a member of the department. There were also dances, a yearly auction and 50/50 draws.

The brigade also held an annual carnival for many years. It consisted of concession stands (built by members), games, hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, live entertainment and a beauty contest. Members of the department were judged on evening apparel, talent and bathing suits (often borrowed from sisters and wives) and the winner would come back the next year to defend his title as ‘Miss North River.’

Now in its 41st year, North River and District Fire Brigade continues to be a life force in the community regularly holding dances and fund-raisers as well as many special community events. The future looks bright for this dedicated group of men and women and for the community that they serve.

Congratulations North River and District Fire Brigade on 40 years of hard work.  

Tagline: Julie Johnstone is a married mother of two school-aged children, fiddle and step dance teacher and a community volunteer. She lives in North River. If you have any community news to report, send it to her at jamesandjulie@eastlink.ca.

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