The photograph comes from the collection of the Oshawa Community Archives and shows the members of the fire department in 1922. The fire hall shown in the background was located at the corners of Richmond and Simcoe Streets.
Oshawa’s first fire department, which was organized in 1870, was made up entirely of volunteers. P. Thornton was the first to organize and equip the volunteer company and as a result, became the first fire chief.
Before the waterworks system of hydrants, water for fighting fires was supplied from domestic wells or underground tanks. The largest storage tank was built of concrete and was located beneath the Town Hall at the southwest corner of Richmond and Simcoe Streets (the Town Hall also served as the Fire Station and Police Station). Other tanks were built of cedar logs and were placed at several suitable locations in the downtown area. The tanks were usually filled by rain water from roofs and ditches, but if necessary, water had to be hauled in to maintain a suitable level.
When the bell in the tower of the Town Hall clock rang, teams of horses from the livery would come running up the streets towards the Fire Hall and were then hitched to the fire equipment. The volunteer firemen would either run towards the Town Hall or go to the nearest intersection indicated by the location signal of the second alarm. Here they might make a jump for one of the fire carts as it passed by.
Prior to 1873, the only fire fighting equipment available for the Oshawa volunteers was a manual pump. This “relic” was replaced by a steam pumper, which was much more efficient. Then in 1917 the first motorized unit, a Chevrolet truck, was purchased and served for 11 years as a hose and chemical unit.
For more information on firefighting in Oshawa, visit the Oshawa Community Museum located in Lakeview Park, Oshawa.