BFD History

There had not been any new developments in the requirements to become a fire fighter since J.D. Lewis’ era as chief. The 1955 International Association of Fire Fighters Statistics states that there were no medical examinations required for new or current  members of the department. When Lambert retired in 1961, his successor, twenty-three year veteran, Chief Charles Townson, oversaw changes to the hiring process.

A new form of hiring was developed in order to ensure that all firefighters were adequately trained and physically fit before they could join the force. The process included an application, an interview (with the head of human resources of the city, the chief and deputies), and a medical test performed by the city doctor. New men were also required to obtain a Saint John’s first aid certificate and have completed a high school level of grade ten. New policy was also developed that permitted retirement for a firefighter at the age of sixty.

The only death to date of an on-duty Brantford firefighter occurred on May 7, 1967. Firefighter Jack Mulligan, standing on the rear tailboard of the pumper, was struck by the department’s aerial truck following closely behind. The pumper he was riding had stopped abruptly when firefighters noticed children lighting a fire in a garbage can. The heavy aerial truck was unable to stop in time and struck Mulligan. He died 3 days later from his internal injuries.

Equipment improvements were made during Towson’s  years in office to enhance the safety of the firefighters. Previously, firefighters were not forced to wear face masks  when on the scene of fires. The firefighters who did wear one were protected by a mask that only covered their mouth and noses, as it did not have an air tank component (This situation prompted the nickname “Smoke Eaters”). A new type of face mask was introduced, which included a breathing apparatus. These “rebreathers” became a mandatory piece of protective equipment and reduced the amount of injuries to firefighters from smoke inhalation.

Under Towson, the fire prevention unit expanded to become a four person division. The expanded division allowed for the implementation of the Home Inspection Program (Figure 5). This program increased public awareness of fire safety issues, and enforced fire- law regulations. Fire crews, with their trucks, would inspect every home in Brantford for fire hazards (if the resident allowed them onto their property). Physical inspections of a property allowed the firefighters to educate the resident on the importance of smoke alarms and eliminating general fire hazards. This program is still operated in Brantford.

Rapid growth in the city’s north-east section and the Formpac fire in 1973 brought on the development of Brantford’s third fire station. A fire consultant’s report in 1974 concluded that Brantford was under serviced in fire protection. 44 Following the consultant’s report and Chief Towson’s approach to City Council, Number Three Hall was built. It officially opened in June of 1976 on Lynden Road.

The lone truck that was purchased during Towson’s years in office was an elevated platform snorkel with a 1050 gallons per minute pump. It was referred to as the “battleship of the fleet” due to the fact that older department members were world war two  veterans. The veterans referred to the fire department’s equipment as equipment from the war. “To them, fighting a fire was the same as fighting the enemy of a war.” Chief Townson retired in 1975.

The Brantford Fire Department was the product of local residents recognizing a need in the community and meeting that need to the best of their abilities. The Fire Department has constantly adapted to improve its service in Brantford. The additions of new motorized equipment and the addition of the Fire Prevention program greatly increased the city’s protection from devastating fires. The years 1835-1975 were years of great change in the department. These innovative changes led to national recognition for Brantford in the field of fire fighting. Up to the present time, the department has continued to adapt to the changing needs of the citizens of Brantford, and provide the highest level of protection of life, property and the environment for those who live, work or play in the Brantford community.