Fire service evolution
Today, we take fire protection for granted. Local departments, comprised primarily of volunteer firefighters, respond to a plethora of emergencies 24-7, 365 days of the year.
The services are a far cry from the early brigades that were poorly equipped and woefully underfunded. While Alexandria was prospering, little attention was being paid to protecting the burgeoning businesses from the destructive element.
In January, 1896, flames consumed the Alexandria Manufacturing Co., prompting the loss of 30 jobs at the furniture factory, and calls for the establishment of a volunteer fire brigade.
Chief D.D. McDougall and Captains Alex Lalonde and A.D. McDonell led the brigade in its efforts to secure money for supplies from village council. The chief quit when funds were not forthcoming. However, council’s tune changed after fire destroyed two more businesses that Summer. The brigade was re-organized in September. In 1898, the pay of the 12 firemen was set at $5 per year. In 1904, the brigade was reorganized again. The chief was paid $15 per year. Firefighters got $10 if they attended 12 practices.
In early 1944, the fire brigade was expanded to 12 members; the men were to receive $30 a year.
Incredibly, there were no fatal fires during this era.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED: Firefighters know that no two calls are the same. Over the years, volunteer brigades have become better equipped and better trained than the pioneers who started small-town forces in the late 1800s.