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Calgary's First Fire

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 540

Fire Hall #1, built 1887 demolished 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 540

The first major fire in Calgary occurred on January 8 1885 in J.L. Bowen's house on Atlantic Avenue (now 9th Avenue). The house, valued at $575, which would have made it one of the finer homes in the city, was completely destroyed. Bystanders were unable to stop the fire mainly because there was no nearby source of water. Snowballs were hurled at the blaze and a bucket brigade was started to bring water from a town water tank, but to no avail. The best they could accomplish was to save some of the furniture and to drag the nearby henhouse, with its occupants, to safety.

It may have been this fire that spurred the approval for the digging of eight wells around the city. It also led to the development of the Calgary Hook, Ladder and Bucket Corps in August of 1885. James Smart, who would become Chief in 1898, was "hookman" on that brigade, .

The photograph above shows the Calgary Fire Hall built in 1887 on what is now 7th Avenue between Centre Street and 1st Street E. It comes from our postcard collection which is accessible through our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Information about the history of the Calgary Fire Department can be found in our Local History room on the 4th floor of the Central Library.

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