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REMEMBERING THE PAST

FIRE!!! Man's best friend and greatest foe, It is said in the fire service that no one appreciates the service until something happens. Pittsburgh Township is no different in this regard than any other municipality in the country.

Our beginnings were humble and, as in in any of the hundreds of other cities, towns and villages, were based on community need.

Pittsburgh Township Council had wrestled with the problem of fire protection for its ratepayers for years. We had depended on service from adjoining municipalities but were at the whim of the availability and the hope that once they were fighting a fire in our township that they would not be needed in, and called back, to their own area.

A serious fire in the spring of 1955 set the wheels in motion for the founding of the Pittsburgh Township Fire Department. A house in Eastview Park caught fire and spread to the houses on either side. The Kingston Fire Department, having received a call from a Mr Shepherd (same surname as the Reeve), thought they had the required clearance from the Reeve and responded immediately. Their quick response averted a major catastrophe. As a result of this incident the Township residents once again brought pressure on Council to provide proper fire protection.

In June 1955 Council passed By-Law No 11A-1955 officially forming a Volunteer Fire Department. Council also passed By-Law 13-1955 authorizing the borrowing of $25,000 for the purpose of purchasing a fire truck, equipment and the construction of a fire hall.

On October 1, 1955, seventy volunteers started training, in the old town hall in Barriefield, under the guidance of Herbert Mallory of the Fire Marshal's Office. Sydney Taylor offered his services and was appointed the Department's first Chief by Council.

The selection of the site for the first fire hall was no easy task. Several locations were considered, some owners offered their land for $1,000 a half acre while others offered to donate the land. A site on the Joyceville side road was selected when it was determined that the majority of the firefighters lived within a two mile radius, well within hearing range of the fire siren. The land was purchased from Mrs Victor Pierson who very gladly sold council whatever size lot they required for the sum of $50.

Pittsburgh Council visited a number of fire halls in nearby municipalities, then approved a construction plan drafted by Colin J MacLean, the Township Clerk. On September 16, 1955 the first sod was turned and construction of station number 1 started. Mr MacLean took charge of the construction and with the help of several volunteers erected the structure within several weeks.

On completion of the fire hall, the Bell Telephone Company installed a two wire fire telephone system. The phones were initially installed in the Township Clerk's office on Highway 2 and at the fire hall. Each of these phones could receive a fire call and the operator could activate the fire siren located on the roof of the fire hall.

Also in 1955 the Seeley's Bay Fire Department made an agreement with Pittsburgh Council to provide fire protection to the area north of Joyceville, known as the Rear of the Township. This agreement would cost the Township $800.00 per year.

Jim MacLean an automobile dealer in Trenton purchased a new 1955 Dodge chassis for the township at a cost of $6,000. On delivery this truck was taken to the LaFrance Fire Truck Company in Toronto to be turned into a fire pumper at a cost of approximately $6,000. Pumper Number 1 was delivered to the Township on January 25, 1956. The first pump test was conducted at Pickett's Ferry shortly after delivery.

On March 16, 1956 over 140 citizens braved a late winter storm to attend the Official Opening of Station Number 1. The thirty volunteer firefighters proudly displayed the station, pumper and ancillary equipment all of which had been purchased for approximately $25,000.

At 4 o'clock on March 21, 1956 the department responded to its first alarm. The chimney of a residence owned by Donald Simpson located on Highway 15 at Isle of Man Road caught fire. Alan MacLean responded to hall within four minutes of hearing the roof siren. He got the engine out and headed to the scene, picking up four volunteers enroute. Pumper 1 arrived on scene within sixteen minutes of the call. The fire was quickly extinguished and the residence saved.

In 1956 Colin MacLean convinced Township Council to pass a motion that set the rate of pay for the volunteer firefighters at $5.00 per call. Shortly after the motion was passed a bulldozer, operating on a the site of what is now Joyceville Penitentiary, caught fire. Twenty firefighters responded, costing the Township $100. This caused the Township to reconsider the motion, at the next Council Meeting Syd Taylor and Robbie Robinson presented a plan based on a point system. The starting rate would be $3.00 per point, Council accepted this plan, which remained in effect until recently.

By-Law 15-1956 was passed in November 1956 giving the Township of Pittsburgh Fire Department to participate in County mutual aid.

The fire phones were re-located to Graham's General Store and the home of Orval and Mary Bullock in May 1957. On 20 May, the day the phones were activated, the first call was received. Four callers reported a marsh fire in Eastview.

The remainder of 1957 was relatively quiet, the department responded to a few grass and brush fires. However on December 13 a thirty foot section of national gas pipeline exploded on the Woodburn Road. Several million cubic feet of natural gas was set a blaze. The glow could be seen from downtown Kingston and calls were received from as far away as New York State asking if Gananoque was ablaze.