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Fire Service Celebrates Its 250th Anniversary

(Tuesday, January 13/2004)-- Mayor Peter Kelly, on behalf of Halifax Regional Council, today extended congratulations to members of the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service, who are celebrating its 250th anniversary this year.

Mayor Kelly said the Fire and Emergency Service will mark the anniversary on Wednesday, January 14th, making it the oldest fire service in Canada and among the oldest in North America.

(Note to Editors: Halifax Regional Council will proclaim January 14, 2004 as the official 250th anniversary of the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service and unveil the new 250th anniversary flag at a reception this afternoon, beginning at 5 p.m., in Halifax Hall, City Hall.)

"The Fire and Emergency Service continues to provide excellent protection to citizens and property in our community," he said. "Throughout the two World Wars, the Halifax Explosion, the Bedford Magazine fire, and many other major blazes and catastrophes, the Fire Services has always been there for the people of Halifax, Dartmouth and the surrounding communities."

"Therefore, I would urge all residents of HRM to make an effort to extend their best wishes to the men and women of the Fire Service, who put their lives on the line everyday for us," Mayor Kelly said.

A number of events are being scheduled by the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service throughout the year as part of the 250th anniversary celebrations, beginning with an official kick off on May 3, 2004 in the Grand Parade. Further details will be announced at a later date.


Mayor Peter Kelly
(902) 490-4010

Mike LeRue, Public Information Officer
Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency

Fact Sheet

Firefighting in Halifax Regional Municipality began in the early 1750s within the newly founded community of Halifax. British military personnel performed these functions shortly after the fleet's arrival in Chebucto Bay.

The first official fire establishment "The Union Fire Club" was formed January 14, 1754, thus began the oldest Fire Service in Canada.

The Union Fire Club carried on until the more sophisticated Union Engine Company formed August 8, 1768. The Union Engine Company was a much larger organization and grew quickly as the community expanded.

On July 11, 1750, Halifax recorded the first fire of major proportion in Canada, which almost wiped out the entire community.

The community of Dartmouth formed the Dartmouth Engine Company in 1822. Later, Dartmouth formed a Union Protection Company, whose main function was to assist the Engine Company with salvage during firefighting.

In the 1800s, the stature of firefighting and responsibility for fire protection was of tremendous importance. Among those more prominent individuals who served as former Chiefs were Samuel and Edward Cunard , Thomas Grassie, Alexander Keith, James Merkel, William Stairs Sr., William Stairs Jr., John Leander Starr, Michael Tobin, Richard Tremain, Andrew Mitchell Uniacke, Benjamin Weir, and William Young.

Nova Scotia can lay claim to many firsts in Canadian firefighting:

  • Halifax had the first hand-propelled fire engine (two were part of the inventory on Governor Edward Cornwallis' ship);
  • Halifax had the first steam engine - named Victoria No. 1 in 1861;
  • Halifax had the first motorized pumper - 1913 American LaFrance (Patricia) badly damaged in Halifax Explosion;
  • Halifax had the first Fire Insurance Company; and
  • Upper Hammonds Plains had the first all-black Fire Department.

The Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917 was known throughout the world as the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb. During this tragic event, nine members of the Halifax Fire Department were killed including Chief Edward Condon and Deputy Chief William Brunt.


  • Since January 14, 1754, the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service has evolved from several small community services into a complex organization, responsible for meeting the public safety needs of 359,000 residents.
  • Approximately 452 career uniformed men and women operate from 63 stations, strategically positioned throughout Halifax Regional Municipality.
  • Also, 80 civilians provide key support roles from headquarters and other locations within the Fire and Emergency Service.
  • Approximately 800 qualified volunteers also provide service delivery.
  • The Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service trains firefighters to provide a full complement of fire suppression, technical rescue, emergency rescue response and extrication, dangerous goods response, and emergency medical care. Non-emergency services include public awareness, inspections, investigations, technical expertise and training provided to the public and to other HRM business units.


Above content last modified Thursday, November 02, 2023 at 11:40am.