September 21st, 2019
May 10th, 2020

Facing the Flames: The History of Fire Fighting in Grey County

Experience the dramatic history of firefighting with this Grey Roots original exhibit! Discover stories of local fire and rescue from the first brave bucket brigades to our current highly-trained professionals. Step into the fire hall and see if you can handle the heat in our timed firefighting activity. Explore historic and modern equipment, including the fully restored 1923 LaFrance pumper fire truck – Owen Sound Fire Engine No. 1.

The exhibition will place Grey County’s firefighting history in context with that of Canada’s. Exhibit highlights include:

  • 15 Interpretive Panels with Grey County archival photos which will explore: 
    • How each community’s fire departments developed and how they changed with amalgamation(s)
    • Large / disastrous / history-altering fires in the County
    • Locations of Grey County’s fire departments and what areas they serve
    • Mutual aid between departments
    • Various fire trucks and equipment used and their purposes
    • Fire hall architecture over 160 years
    • The challenges of firefighting and rescue in a cold weather climate
    • The personal protection equipment needed to fight fires and why 
    • Fire Prevention and Safety
    • What firefighters do when they are not fighting fires
    • The dark side of firefighting (duty-related illness, disease, mental health issues)
  • Video interviews with firefighters (full-time, volunteer and retired, all ranks) from each Grey County Fire Department along with Grey County historical photos and fire video footage
  • Scrapbooks of photos and archival material loaned and donated by each fire department (much of it never made public before – the archival images and records books that we have accessed / accessioned through this research has greatly strengthened the archives in firefighting images and fire department history)
  • Artefacts loaned by each Grey County fire department (9) and from Grey Roots’ permanent artefact collection including the OSFD 1923 American LaFrance fire pumper, lovingly restored by our facilities staff and a small army of volunteers
  • A children’s area where kids can dress up and take part in an interactive “firefighting” activity. Children are an at-risk group in house fires. “Don’t hide, get outside.” 

Special Thanks

Firefighters - current and retired 

Grey Roots Museum & Archives would like to thank the following for an overwhelming response in sharing your histories with us and for trusting us with your firefighting photographs, records, ceremonies and objects, to make this exhibition possible:

Doug Barfoot, Fire Chief and the firefighters of the Owen Sound Fire & Emergency Services
Jeff Gautreau, Fire Chief and the firefighters of the Inter-Township Fire Department
Rob Collins, Fire Chief and A.J. Lake, Deputy Fire Chief and the firefighters of the Town of the Blue Mountains Fire Department
Mike Givens, Fire Chief and the firefighters of the Chatsworth Fire Department
Jeff Dentinger, Fire Chief and the firefighters of Hanover Fire Department
Mitchell DaCruz, Fire Chief and the firefighters of Dundalk Fire Department
Marty Wellwood, Fire Chief and the firefighters of Grey Highlands Fire & Emergency Services
John deHooge, Fire Chief and the firefighters of the Meaford & District Fire Department
Phil Schwartz, Fire Chief and the firefighters of the West Grey Fire Service

Grey Roots staff: Archives, Facilities, Collections, Communications and Interpretation. It requires many hands and minds to pull together an exhibit of this caliber. 

Special thanks to Sim Salata and Ted Noble for their leadership roles.  





Apple barn fire, April 27, 1978. Courtesy of Craigleith Heritage Depot. Photograph by Maggie Black. 



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