BFD History

In 1908, a second station was built in order to house the equipment and the horses (Figure 4). The new station was on the corner of Murray and Mary Streets. The station improved the response time to Brantford’s east end. In 1924, due to the addition of motorized vehicles to the department, the station was no longer needed and was closed. Motorized vehicles enabled quick response times to all areas in Brantford from the one main station.

In 1918, the fire department added another service to benefit the citizens of Brantford. The additions of the Dodge ambulance and the life boat truck turned the department into a fully equipped ambulance rescue service. The firefighters were trained to fight  fires, as well as drive ambulances and attend to the patients.

During his time as chief, Lewis also improved the conditions in which the firefighters worked. The men were continually trained to ensure that they could employ the newest methods of the time. Fire drills were held, and there was constant training in fire  fighting techniques and equipment procedures. By training the men, Lewis “not only improved their firefighting skills, he was also improving their own personal safety.” New uniforms were provided for the firefighters, which included a dress uniform, an overcoat, rubber boots and a helmet. The additions of rubber boots and helmets also greatly contributed to the safety of the fire fighters.

Prior to 1910, firefighters were on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 1910, Lewis was able to grant the men 1 day off a week for much needed rest and family time. In 1919, he introduced the “two platoon system.” The men would work a 10 hour day or a 14 hour night- no longer 24 hours a day. This system decreased the firefighters working time to 96 hours/week.  In addition, Lewis was the first Brantford fire chief to regulate hiring qualifications that applicants had to meet in order to become a fire  fighter. The regulations were that a candidate had to be a physically fit male between the ages of 21 to 31. Although the qualifications were simple, it was the first step in ensuring that Brantford was protected by those who were best suited to perform the  physically demanding job.

Lewis also recognized that additional firefighting positions were needed in the department to adequately serve Brantford. The event that proved his case to council tookplace on March 3, 1913. The E.B. Crompton and Company Drygoods burned to the ground  partly because of the shortage of firefighters. One third of the men had been sent home for dinner, and were unable to return quickly enough to contain the blaze.25 This blaze also contributed to the development of the system in which all off-duty firefighters were on call. If a firefighter was to leave his home while he was off duty, he had to notify the station of where they could be reached. There is still a vestige of this system in the department today.

At the end of Lewis’ term as chief in 1938, Brantford’s population had grown to 31 339. The fire department covered 5.5 square miles and was composed of 29 men. There were 483 fire hydrants and 42 direct wire alarm boxes through out the down town in service. Daniel J. Lewis brought the Brantford Fire Department into the age of motorization. He also worked hard to improve the fire fighters working conditions.

In 1938, Lewis was succeeded as chief by Gordon Huff. Huff served as chief until 1954. His goal was to implement a new and innovative method of protecting people from fires. His concept of Fire Prevention brought the Brantford Fire Department national  recognition.

The concept of fire prevention was a new direction for the fire department. Previously, the energy had been devoted to the addition of equipment and labour. Fire fighting procedures were kept within the hall and little public involvement was solicited. Fire  prevention included the citizens of Brantford by promoting awareness of how to prevent fires from starting. An important position implemented by Huff to aid in fire prevention was the fire inspector. The role of the fire inspector was to inspect buildings for fire  hazards. The inspector would also ensure that buildings conformed to city bylaws and provincial standards. This included inspections relating to liquor licenses and inspections of public halls and schools for fire related hazards.