Facing the Flames: The History of Firefighting in Grey County

Grey Roots is temporarily closed to the public. Please see grey.ca/covid-19 for more information. 

*Winner of the 2019 Ontario Museum Association Award of Excellence for Community Engagement* Exhibit extended until 2021! 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 places Grey County’s firefighting history in context with that of Canada’s. Exhibit highlights include:

  •  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.” 

Photo: Ursula Burkhardt, Chapman's Fire, Markdale, 2009. 



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