History

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Our Department: Yesterday,Today and Tommorrow

In the late 1950's several concerned community members felt that there was a strong need for a community volunteer fire department, as at that time, the nearest fire departments were in Chester and Mahone Bay, a fair distance away.

On December 4,1957, a public meeting was held to discuss the formation of a local fire department. At a second meeting, attended by 35 concerned citizens, on December 19,1957, it was decided to proceed with the creation of a new local volunteer fire department.

The first President was Jack Hooper. A Treasurer, Arthur Sawler Sr. and a Secretary, Fred Adams were also both elected at that time.

The fledging department needed to quickly organize and begin training its new volunteer firefighters. The new group required the basic fire fighting and personal safety equipment.  With a great show of community support, the initial fund raising efforts began on May 30, 1958 with a pie sale and dance, followed by a garden party sponsored by all the organizations in the community.

The first fire department truck was a 1946 Ford that was purchased from the Coldbrook Fire Department for $1500. Interestingly, $1200 of this amount had to be borrowed on a bank note, co-signed by 12 dedicated citizens, the balance coming from local pledges. 

fotoflexermemorialhall_photoThis first truck was stored in the basement of the Memorial Hall, known in the community at that time as Franklyn Rafuse's coal shed.

In March of 1958, Jack Hooper was elected as the first Fire Chief of the new Western Shore Volunteer Fire Department. Lloyd Gibson was elected at the same time as Deputy Chief.

Our first fire alarm system was a Drager horn kindly donated by the Lunenburg Foundry. Early in 1959, the Department purchased a ladder, 50 ft of hose and an auxiliary pump followed by a new electric siren in 1960.

Lloyd Gibson assumed the responsibility of Fire Chief in 1960. In 1961, more equipment was purchased, most importantly, rubber protective coats for the volunteer firefighters. Training continued for all firefighters so they would be best prepared for all emergencies in the community. 

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In June of 1961, another public meeting was held to approve the borrowing of $10,000 from the Municipal Government to purchase a suitable building to house the truck and equipment. These funds were to be paid back using a special levy tax. The Councilor at that time was Robert Mosher. He was a great help in putting forward the appropriate motion to Council. The taxpayers approved the plan and in early 1962, the little old brown schoolhouse in Western Shore was purchased and became the first fire station for the Western Shore Volunteer Fire Department.

Renovations of this building were started in 1977 and completed with the construction of an addition with kitchen and bar facilities for over 200 people. Much of the building materials for the additions were provided by wood logs donated by Frank Swinamer. These logs were actually planked by the local volunteers, helping the Department reduce its cost of construction. The Hall was expanded once again in 1984.

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Later, On February 26,1962, the first commissioners, John Zwicker, Percy Sawler, Robert Mosher, Robert Myra, Donald Hatt, George Swinimer, Glen Barkhouse, and Albro Bechner were elected.

A Ladies Auxiliary was formed in 1963 with 25 active members and played a most important  role in fund raising and support activities for the Fire Department.

The third Chief was George Keddy who ran the department until 1966. Ernest Rafuse then took command and served as Fire Chief for over 12 years until 1979.

The Beech Hill community was added to the Fire District in January of 1978. The Department was already providing mutual aid assistance for Mahone Bay and Martin's River.

In July of 1975 the first two female firefighters, namely, Diane and Iris Sawler joined the department. Tragically, Iris was killed soon after in a car accident. The Department created a special dedication to Iris who will never be forgotten. The first female to serve on the commission was Gladys Boutlier who was elected in 1978

More fund raising activities,such as weekly Bingo, were instituted to provide for needed renovations and expansion of the fire hall. One great fund raising event was the annual Parade and Garden party, complete with a Miss Fireman Beauty Pageant and the crowning of a Queen and Princesses. Ernest Rafuse was a great chef and always took over when it came time to steam the lobsters. One of the popular events during the winter months was the ATV Rally.

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In 1982 the Department recognized a critical need to allocate funds for a new truck. In 4 short years the Department was able to raise $140,000 in the Pumper Fund through community pledges, Bingos and other special events.

Past Chief Laurie Myra took delivery of the Department's first new truck, an International Diesel truck, fabricated by Thibault, in October of 1986. This unit was fully equipped with a 1050 pump and 1100 gallons of water on board, greatly increasing the firefighting capabilities of the Department. It is still in service today.

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A Junior Firefighters Department was formed early in the department's history and was then re-established in the 1980's, under the direction of Junior Chief Matthew Sawler and senior advisor Mike Slauenwhite. Although not permitted to respond to actual fire calls, the Juniors got valuable training and support the Fire Department in many activities. Many members continue on as volunteers for the senior Fire Department.

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In 1992 the department needed better equipment to deal with motor vehicle accidents and purchased its own set of Hurst Jaws of life.  Training on vechicle extrication was  provided to the firefighters. 

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Past Chief Lawrence Sawler took delivery of a new 1995 Rescue unit in preparation for the EMS system that was being established. This unit is still in service today, serving as the primary rescue and medical response unit.

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In 1996 The Department was incorporated under the Societies Act. In the same year, the volunteers fought a major fire at the St John's Lutheran Church in Mahone Bay. They received kind recognition from the Church for their tremendous efforts in fighting this major fire.

The vounteer firefighters of Western Shore continue to actively train each week and have responded to many incidents over the many years of dedication to their community.

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The Department celebrated its 50th Anniversary on December 4th, 2007. We continue each year to be involved in the community. Shown below is a photo of the 2009 Canada Day Parade in conjunction with the local Canadian Legion.

fotoflexercanadaday2009_photoWe are dedicated to protecting and preserving the quality of life, property and environment through education, leadership, and effective emergency response. This volunteer service is provided 24 hours a day seven days a week throughout our community.

Over the next few years we recognize that we will be faced with new and even more challenging issues. The technology for responding to these new risks continues to advance especially in the area of safety for our volunteers. Through active training programs we remain committed to upholding the most recent standards in emergency response. 

Our volunteers work very hard to provide these services to the community of Western Shore. We are proud of our community, its citizens and the important role we play in protecting and preserving our way of life

 

* Much of this information was provided from archives that had been kindly prepared by the past Commissioner Gladys Boutlier. Many thanks to Mike Slauenwhite who has gathered and maintained many of the department photos.