The Windsor Fire Department is a volunteer fire department founded in 1881 by Windsor Town Council and interested citizens. Prior to 1881 there was no formal fire service in Windsor. Fires were fought with buckets of water by whoever came to assist. Many buildings simply burned to the ground. When the Windsor Fire Department was formed it would appear that there were 2 stations established at the outset. The Number One Division with 20 men was situated in the town proper and Division 2 with 10 men was located in Curries Corner on the edge of town. Early equipment consisted of water buckets, basic hand operated pumps, hard rubber hose, single length wooden ladders, and a hand drawn or possibly horse drawn wagon. Between 1881 and 1883 there were no water mains in the town so water for fire fighting would have to be drawn from wells, creeks or from the Avon River if the tide was in. There were horse drawn water wagons of about 200 gallons that were available in town and these were used to supply water as well. Many minor fires of that time developed into major fires due to lack of a good water supply, the meager fire equipment used, type of house construction and perhaps even response time, particularly in winter.
Eventually in 1883 and 1884 a water supply was found at Mill Lake and a pipeline was run into town. Water mains were soon established throughout the town proper. All Windsor fire mains were made at the Windsor Foundry and many remained in use until the 1970s. With the tragedy of the “Great Windsor Fire” in 1897 during which the entire town core burned to the ground, the Town Council decided that better equipment was needed. In 1899 they bought the Ronald Steam Pumper.
This was a horse drawn state of the art steam pumper which had a reciprocating pump and could throw a stream of water over 150 feet. Other new equipment included a horse drawn ladder wagon and a hose wagon. A new fire station/civic building was built in 1900 at the corner of Grey and Gerrish Streets. Horses were purchased especially for the fire department and were stabled at Esty Cochrane or John Jenkins stables near by on Gerrish street. By 1900 the Windsor Fire Department consisted of 40 volunteers.
As time went on and motor vehicles became more prominent the Town purchased a 1919 White Company Pumper. This was a remarkable commitment to fire fighting in the town because it was expensive and very modern for the time.
The Windsor Fire Department continued to evolve with the purchase of a hose truck in 1925 and a Ladder Truck in 1927. The Fire Station expanded to include 3 bays for the apparatus.
Major fires plagued the town through out the early part of the century. In 1905 the Dufferin Hotel burned and in 1924 many homes and businesses on King Street were destroyed. The Fire Department membership grew and apparatus continued to improve over the years. Not surprisingly new equipment seemed to be purchased not long after a major fire. This was no doubt the best time to pressure the Town Council for more financial support as the immediacy of the devastating effects of fire were foremost in the minds of the public.
Each time the fire bell, siren or horn would sound the firefighters answered the challenge. These men and later women volunteered their time to serve their community in the noble desire to save life and property from the grips of fire. Many of the volunteer firefighters served for over 16 years (required for veteran fire fighter status) and some for as long as 50 years. One firefighter, Bill Graham, served for over 63 years and became Canada’s longest serving active volunteer fire fighter. These people took time away from their family and jobs to serve their community, unselfishly, and often in the face of danger and harsh weather conditions. This tradition continues to this day.
In 1948 Walter Stephens became Chief of the Department and under his direction the Windsor Fire Department continued to evolve. A new American Lafrance Pumper was added in 1950 and also better turn out gear. In the early 1950s the Municipality of West Hants came under pressure from its rural citizens to provide fire protection for their properties. In 1953 The Windsor Fire Department and the Municipality of West Hants entered into a contract which would see the Fire Department provide rural fire service to communities surrounding Windsor. That year of 1953 the Department purchased a new Bickle Seagrave Pumper and guaranteed that at least 6 men would respond to provide that service.
One can only imagine the difficulties of rural fire fighting at the time. Rural roads were often poor and unpaved. Snow plowing in winter was slow and access to a water supply was not easy.
By 1961 the Windsor Fire Department had moved into its new Station on King Street
and soon thereafter the old Division 2 in Curry’s Corner was disbanded. Fire equipment and apparatus were purchased, fixed up and sold to buy newer and better equipment. Regular training was instituted as fire-fighting techniques continued to evolve. Breathing Apparatus became part of the departments’ equipment in the late 1960s but it was hard to convince the “old smoke eaters” of their benefit. New type of hoses, nozzles and other fire equipment were purchased and the Windsor Fire Department membership grew to 65 members.
In 1988 Chief Stephens retired after 50 years of service and 40 of those years as Fire Chief. He was succeeded by Chief Fred Fox who continued to encourage a progressive fire service for the Town and Municipality. In 1993 a State of the Art Superior E One Pumper was purchased and in the year 2000 another Superior E One was purchased with a 1500 gpm pump.
In 2005 a second division was established in Vaughan after residents pressured the Municipality of West Hants to provide them with fire service in their area. A new Wildland Interface Pumper was purchased for that station. The Windsor Fire Department in 2009 consists of some 70 members, running 4 pumpers, 2 aerial devices, 2 tankers, 1 heavy rescue, 1 light rescue (Special Services Vehicle), 2 personnel vans and 1 – 16′ Zodiac fast rescue boat out of 2 fire stations.