Menu Close

History of Firefighting in Vittoria


On July 4, 1956, a meeting was called at the Vittoria Public School to gauge interest in organizing a fire department for Vittoria and the surrounding area. The response was enthusiastic, and many individuals and organizations expressed interest.

The organization was named “The Vittoria and District Volunteer Firefighters.” Meetings were held throughout August, with interest increasing rapidly. The following committee was organized:

  • Chairman: Harry Thompson
  • Secretary: Murray Church
  • Treasurer: Max Jarvis
  • Members: Murray Boughner, E. L. Butler, John Cooper, John Dick, “Scotty” Findlay, Tom Hill, Howard May, Charles Racz

A sub-committee, consisting of Murray Church, John Dick, and Max Jarvis, with assistance from Ex-Fire Chief Cecil Pettit from Kenmore, New York, was appointed to inquire about a pumper and equipment. They reported that a pumper could be purchased from King Seagrave in Woodstock. The project was approved by the Charlotteville Council, and funds were loaned for the purchase of the equipment.

With a donation from the Vittoria Lions Club and money borrowed from the council, they purchased a 1939 Bickle Seagrave and some equipment for a total price of $4,829. Land was purchased from Harry Ferris for $500, and by October 1, 1956, a building was in progress. With the help of private donations, council support, and voluntary workers, the building, although not quite finished, could be used.

Fill was purchased from area landowners at $2 per load, and trucking was done by Grassett and Glen Wilson at $3 per hour. On June 28, 1957, the first meeting of the Vittoria and District Firefighters was held in the new fire hall. A motion was passed that dues be paid at a rate of 25ยข per month.

Charter Members of the Fire Department:

  • Fire Chief: Ray Hodgson
  • Deputy Chief: Harry Thompson
  • Captain: Murray Church
  • Captain: Tom Hill
  • Firefighters: Knisely Bingleman, Ambrose Franks, Tommy Hill, Max Jarvis, Allen Lloyd, Robert McKenzie, Robert Weaver

A 1953 GMC van was purchased for $300 and was repaired and painted at Victor Kish Body Shop for $75. The year 1958 was spent finishing the building. In 1959, a Class A 625 GPM King Seagrave Triple combination pumper was purchased. As time progressed, it was decided that a tank truck would be valuable. A 1947 Diamond T Truck and tank were purchased for $250.

The department set its sights on another project: building a recreation room on the back of the fire hall. Money for this project was raised through turkey raffles, ham rolls, barn dances, and from fire calls. Fire calls were $15 each and were paid by township taxpayers regardless of the number of men or time required to extinguish the fire.

Each year, additions were made: a well and pump, septic tank and tile bed, washrooms, kitchen, pool table, card tables, large table, dart boards, etc. On June 24, 1966, the department purchased and equipped a 1962 Pontiac station wagon at a cost of $1,500, funded by raffles and other fundraising activities.

The Vittoria Fire Department hosted the first Norfolk County Mutual Aid Fire School in 1967, an ongoing educational tool for firefighters. Each fire department in the region takes turns hosting it. In 1968, the department received a used truck chassis from the Township of Charlotteville Roads Department. Funds raised by the Firemen’s Club were used to hire Chad’s Welding to install new water tanks on the chassis.

In 1974, the Vittoria Firemen’s Club joined forces with other community groups to build a ball diamond, known as Thompson Memorial Park. Also in 1974, regional government was imposed on Haldimand-Norfolk, changing the name from Charlotteville Station #1 to Township of Delhi Station #3. The Fireman’s Club also sponsored the local Midget Fastball team.

In 1976, the Township of Delhi purchased a new Chevrolet tandem chassis for a tank truck. In 1977, the township retired the 1939 Bickle. The last fire it was used at was at the Lindsay residence on Brock Street, the same building that burned in 1956, leading to the formation of the Vittoria District Fire Department.

The Bickle was turned over to the Vittoria Firemen’s Association. The Firemen and the Firefighters’ Ladies Auxiliary raised money to restore the Bickle through walkathons and raffles. The truck was taken apart to the bare frame and rebuilt, except for the engine, which, after 57 reliable years, remained untouched. Harold Stewart rebuilt the pump, and others helped where they could. The truck was professionally painted, and Stan Mitts from Tillsonburg did the lettering and gold leaf.

In 1979, the Township of Delhi purchased a rescue van and a 1979 Ford pumper fire truck to replace the one purchased in 1959. In 1987, the department paid off its first pledge of $15,000 to the Community Centre and immediately pledged another $15,000.

In 1989, the department participated in the first Great Vittoria Pickup Truck Raffle with the Vittoria Lions Club and the Thompson Memorial Park Committee, with proceeds going to the Vittoria & District Community Centre. This project was repeated in 1991, 1993, and 1996.

In February 1990, the Vittoria Fire Department was involved with the Hagersville tire fire under the Mutual Aid agreement of Haldimand-Norfolk. In 1991, a $2,000 donation was made to help pay for paving at the Community Centre. Additionally, $26,000 was raised from the community for Jaws of Life rescue equipment.