On Nov. 4, 1975, Sault Ste. Marie City Council passed a motion involving a fee system for fire protection in areas north of the city. In case of a fire, they would send a pumper to the MTO yard (then the MTC) if needed. The MNR was "responsible" for fires in the Goulais area then.
In April of 1977, Bud Wildman organized a meeting attended by 43 people and advised them of the need of a fire protection brigade in the Goulais area. He went on to offer advice as to how to go about it, funding options etc. At the time, the provincial government had put together a grant system titled "Isolated Communities Assistance Fund" or ICAP. The fund had available $750 000.00 for communities considered isolated to put together and equip a fire protection brigade. Cecil Elliot offered to provide land to build a fire hall at Dudley Hill. Frank Poliquin offered to house a pumper at his service station, known as the King Mountain Shell.
A committee was formed to address the area covered by the brigade, training, etc. Unfortunately, the committee was not able to access the funds provided by ICAP as the population did not meet the population criteria of the time. During this period of time, the King Mountain Shell was destroyed by fire. Regrettably, the idea of a fire brigade was shelved.
Another fire, in 1980, which destroyed the General Store, brought the idea of a fire protection brigade to the forefront again. At the time, the General Store house three businesses. All the businesses were destroyed despite nearly 200 locals offering to help, the use of sand bags and the MNR showing up an hour and half after the fire was reported. Needless to say, a local fire department was needed. So, once again, Bud Wildman hosted a meeting urging residents to show interest in a local fire brigade. 75 people attended the meeting held Nov. 17, 1980 at Mountain View School. In addition, the MNR and the OFM (Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office) were present to offer advice and suggestions. At that meeting, 13 residents volunteered to begin the process of getting a fire brigade in Goulais River and they were ultimately successful.
Those original committee members can be credited with putting us all on the road to having a diverse, highly trained and very successful local fire department. Those members were: Rick Atkins, Janice Atkins, Lynne Dunne, Allen McCaig, Jim Cronin, Bill Currie, Mike LeBlanc, John Head, Paul Talliefer, Jerry Coulis, Curtis Nystedt, Gordon McLarty and Ted Alleway.
Our thanks to all the hard work those members as well as everyone involved in fundraising (especially the Fireflies!), the community for donating hard earned money to get them started on the road to over 25 years of life saving service to the residents of Goulais River.
One year later, the land the fire hall is located on was donated to the community by the Board of Education. We started out with 2600 square feet, 1 pumper, one tanker, 33 members and an auxiliary unit of 16 members. The original fire chief was Brad Chitty. Our original coverage area was north on Hwy 17 to King Mountain Shell or Harmony Bay, southeast to Kirby’s Corners and southwest along the Goulais River. Basically, they covered 3 townships. We now cover 7!
Bud Wildman, at the time, the brigade could only reasonably provide protection to structures within a five mile radius of the hall. Did you know that even today, insurance companies still consider five miles or 8 kilometers the "deciding factor" when determining fire protection for your home? Did you know how they determined that number? Believe it or not, the standard was set back in the day of horse drawn fire trucks - five miles was considered the longest distance the horses pulling the truck could run full out before they collapsed…and they still use the standard today. Even with upgrades in technology, etc. some things never change!
The proposed townships involved were originally Fenwick, Haviland and Vankoughnet. Some thought this wasn’t enough, but based on the "rules" above, it was originally all the department could take on. It was suggested on Nov. 19, 1980 that a Local Service Board be set up to take advantage of an initiative of government matching of dollars raised in the community to go toward fire protection. To this day, the chief responsibility of the LSB is to ensure the Goulais Area has a fire protection contract in place.
Needless to say, the fire department has gone on to expand. There have been 3 major additions to the hall over the years and several additional vehicles have come and gone. Currently we operate with 5 emergency vehicles and 2 off road vehicles.. In 1998, the Goulais Lion’s club donated a snowmachine for use on those hard to reach snowmobile trails. Donations made in memory of former firefighter Trudy Bemrose, allowed the department to equip that snow machine with a rescue sled, for getting injured/sick patients out of the bush and off the trails.
The department officially joined the Algoma Mutual Aid Association on April 1, 1995. This allowed the department to access neighboring departments for help at large scale fire departments.
Past Fire Chiefs:
Brad Chitty - 1981 - 1984
Jim Lipsit - 1984 - 1986
Paul Taillefer - 1986 - 1993
Tim Denley - Apr. to May 1996, 1996 - 1998
Blair Breckenridge - July 1993 - Oct. 1996
Bob Menard - October 1998 - October 2004
Martie McMillan - October 2004 - October 2007
Jeff Bowen - October 2007 - present
Past Deputy Chiefs:
Ted Alleway - 1981 - 1982
Bill Shewfelt - 1982 - 1984
Paul Taillefer - 1984 - 1986
Blair Breckenridge - 1986 - 1993
Bob Menard - 1993 - 1998
Martie McMillan - 1998 - 2002
Janet Anderson - Feb. 1, 2002 - July 31, 2002
Dave Ryan - July 31, 2002 - October, 2004
Jeff Bowen - October 2004 - October 2007
Jason Dickinson - October 2007 - January 2009
Dave Ryan - January 2009 - May 2014
Lyle Armstrong May 2014 - September 2015
Chris Collins December 2014 - September 2015
Dave Ryan September 2015 - Present
**Many thanks to Iris Bringleson for providing us with so much information about the beginnings of the department!**