History of the DVFD
The following is only a sample of the history of the department, to get the full story, please contact us for the 100th year book.
Before we begin, we would like to pause and thank T.W. Patterson for his 2002 creation of the book "A Century of Service: History of the DVFD", and had it not for his book, some this history presented on this website would not have been possible.
It all started with the destruction of the Quamichan, there was no fire brigade at the time at Alderlea (the former name of Duncan at the time), so the structure was guaranteed it's demise by fire. Later the next year, articles in the papers cited embers were still smoldering where the hotel stood, but that did not stop the development of the "new" Quamichan Hotel being constructed. The area that was called "Alderlea" was the result of the community that managed to halt the first train of the E&N Railway in order to get a stop on the railway in 1886. Prior to it's destruction, the Quamichan was one of the largest buildings in the area in the settlement's infancy.
General fire protection in the area was non-existant unless one was living near industry such as the Chemainus Sawmill, the Municipality of North Cowichan had purchashed fire buckets for a bucket brigade in 1900 for their entire area (North Cowichan Fire Dept. would not formally organize until 1921, 19 years after the following happened below)...
On January 1902, the Alderlea Fire Company (or Alderlea Fire Brigade) was formed in response to the hotel fire, the firefighting gear at the time of formation consisted of buckets, fire extinguishers, axes and 3 ladders. At the same time, a contract was given to to two blacksmiths to "build a truck" for the Fire Company/Brigade. This "truck" would be finished in September 1902, while hose reels were being purchased. September also marked the arrival of a fire bell. The equipment would be housed at a livery stable. The manpower was strictly volunteer.
Growth of the Brigade grew over the years (changing it's name to Duncan Fire Department in 1906), leading up to 1911, when the "Great Fire of Duncan" broke out on the rainy night of November 25th, 1911: The Cowichan Merchants Building fire. Being one of the very few buildings built out of bricks, the Merchants Building was one of the largest & newest buildings also, but that all came down that night as most of the commercial core of "Duncan's" would be destroyed in what almost destroyed the entire settlement of "Duncan's" had it not been for the Duncan Fire Department's efforts.
After the Great Fire, the Department grew along with the incorporation of the City of Duncan in 1912, although the Department served much of the outside area (Norcross, Koksilah) until the limits were defined. In 1913 the Department acquired the first motorized apparatus, but it soon proved that motorized vehicles were not without their problems, nonetheless it did not discourage the Department to purchase a 1922 Model TT American LaFrance Type "E" Chemical Hose Wagon in 1924 with local connections.
1924 brought the Department a new residence in the form of a fire hall along with the Model T, by 1928 the Department had grown to a 2-truck department with the purchase of a 1928 Graham Brothers fire truck, along with an estimated manpower of 25 men.
Wartime and the financial crisis resulting from the Great Depression brought hard times on the Department in the 1930's and 1940's, it would not improve until after the war that things turned for the better by 1949, when the Department went from 2 trucks to 3 trucks full-time with a 1949 Bickle-Seagrave fire truck, and a brand new 5-bay fire hall to replace the 1-bay fire hall from 1924.