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Nanaimo Fire Rescue History

By the mid 1800s, it became apparent to the citizens of Nanaimo that the old "Bucket Brigades" were no longer adequate fire protection. At a public meeting on May 4th, 1878 the "Black Diamond Engine Company" was founded.

The first fire station was built at the corner of Wharf and Front Streets on donated land and with donated materials. The first fire engine was purchased from the City of Portland for $700.00. Also purchased was five hundred feet of hose for $250.00. The original personnel consisted of thirty volunteers who lived in the area of the fire station. This original fire station was destroyed by fire that started in the Royal Hotel in 1894.

In 1890, a subscription list was started in order to secure funds to construct a new modern brick fire station. The new station, at the foot of Nicol Street, was officially opened December 15, 1893. This building is still standing and is presently owned by private interests.

With problems that developed over the years between the Fire Department, Provincial Government and the City, it was decided that the City of Nanaimo would take over the fire department. John Parkin was appointed the first Fire Chief and two Firefighters were hired to drive the horses, "Tom and Jerry".

Nanaimo's Fire Department was one of the first departments in Canada to purchase motorized fire apparatus. In 1913 Nanaimo purchased a pair of Type 10 Combination Hose and Chemical Cars from American LaFrance. These vehicles are still in existence; one at Station #1, Nanaimo (Shakey); and the other at the British Columbia Government Transportation Museum in Cloverdale.


In the early 1950s, the City amalgamated with Brechin District and a small satellite station was built to house one of the 1913 engines. By the early 1960s, the fire station at Nicol Street was becoming too small and in 1967 the department was relocated to the new station on Milton Street. This is the present #1 Station.

During the coal mining years, many small communities sprung up around the original City of Nanaimo. These communities of Harewood, Northfield, Wellington, Chase River, Departure Bay, and Protection Island all had their own fire departments. In 1975 when the City amalgamated, these individual fire departments all became part of the Nanaimo Fire Department.

More than 470 dedicated, full-time Firefighters and seventeen Fire Chief's have passed through the department.

The Fire Training Center (the first of its kind in B.C.) was opened in 1986 and provides training to Firefighters in Nanaimo.


Firemen fighting fire