old fire hall with fire wagons and horses

Past Chiefs

  • Chief George Calder (1889-1898)
  • Chief Dan Lewis (1898-1938)
  • Chief Gordon Huff (1938-1954)
  • Chief William Lambert (1954-1961)
  • Chief Charles Townson (1961-1975)
  • Chief Wesley Wood (1975-1980)
  • Chief Joseph Simon (1980-1992)
  • Chief George Hammond (1992-1995) 
  • Chief Ross Bennett (1995-2001)
  • Chief Garth Dix (2001-2011)
  • Chief Jeff McCormick (2011-2016)

Historical News Article

The following information was taken from an article written in 1940.  The exact publication is unknown.

In the year 1836, over a century ago, when Brantford was a village of a few hundred souls, the fire department had its origin, and the 40 or 50 sturdy pioneers who composed the brigade included most of the able-bodied men in the community. They were an enthusiastic lot, and it is easy to realize how proud they were of the first piece of apparatus, a so called fire engine. It was, no doubt, right up to the minute, but when compared with the ponderous pumpers and aerial ladder trucks of today, it was a very crude piece of mechanism. Of box like construction, and having a water ejector that strongly resembled a goose's neck, the fire-fighters were soon nicknamed "The Goose Neck Company".

Changes took place in the brigade from time to time, with dissatisfaction cropping up and new officers taking charge, and eventually the novelty of fire-fighting wore off to such an extent that a letter was sent to the Town Council, signed by Robert Sproule, Captain of Fire Company No.1, to the effect that unless more interest be taken on the part of the citizens the fire company would have to be disbanded.

The threat apparently was successful in bringing about the desired action, for in 1853 the Exchange Company was organized as a Hook and Ladder Company with Wm. Paterson as Captain. This Company consequently obtained the use of the Exchange Engine, which was the property of Mr. Ignatius Cockshutt, and formed themselves into an Engine Company. Some time later as the result of a petition from 114 citizens a grant of $500.00 was made "to aid in the establishment of an Independent Fire Company". In 1854 this Independent Fire Co. was organized with a Captain and 24 men. Towards the end of the year 1857 the different Companies amalgamated with the title, "United Fire Brigade". Uniforms were obtained, and the men were attired in the grandeur of Sheiks, the uniform consisting of white shirt, black trousers, leather belt (on which was inscribed the name of the company) and a white panama hat with black band. When on duty, leather helmets were worn.

In the year 1858 the Undaunted Hook and Ladder No. 1 was organized with a compliment of 20 men.

In 1860 the Independent Hose Co. disbanded and the Washington Independent Engine Co. was organized in March, 1860, with Ignatius Cockshutt as President and 36 members. This was a manual pump with 4 to 6 men on each side manning the pump.

On 23rd July, 1860, the members of the Y. M. C. A. organized the Rescue Fire Company and was composed only of members of the Y. M. C. A.

Things went along very smoothly until the year 1865 when the Victoria Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 was organized, and some time later they absorbed the Undaunted Hook and Ladder Co., the entire membership being 50 members. Their Motto was, "Ever Ready-Day or Night". In the year 1870 there developed considerable jealousy and trouble among the different Fire Companies, so that in 1871 the Town Council took a hand in trying to settle the differences, with the result that a re-organization took place, and from this re-organization emanated the Brant Hose Co. No.1. and a new Victoria Hook and Ladder Co. No.1. Things went along for some years without event, unti1 both the Hose Company and Ladder Company started to compete in the Volunteer Firemen's Tournaments. Both of these teams were rated about the best in the country and it got so that they would compete against each other for various trophies, and it became a regular habit for them to appear in the finals against each other for the best drill corps and the best dressed corps prizes. For awhile the Hose Company would win and then the Ladder Company would win until eventually the Hose Company began to beat the Ladder Company in tournament after tournament.

In July 1888, in Berlin (now Kitchener) they again met in the final of the Drill Competition (and both teams had been training secretly), and when the Judges handed down their decision, the Hose Company were again victorious.

There now developed a great bitterness between the Hose and Ladder Companies until it developed into fighting and hindering each other both going to and at fires. The situation became so serious that late in 1888, the City Council abolished the Volunteer Companies, and passed a By-law creating a Permanent Fire Department, and so we had the inauguration of the Permanent Department with three paid men and twenty-five "runners". The three paid men were Chief G. D. Calder, D. J. Lewis and Sandy Bremner.

New Years Day, 1889, was a red letter day in the annals of the Brantford Fire Department, for it marked the passing of the "runners" and the inauguration of the fully-paid brigade. This history making Company included Chief G. D. Calder, Foreman William Allen, Assistant Foreman D. J. Lewis, and Firemen Wm. Gardner, George Bremner, Wm. Bremner, Dave Henderson, Fred Lang, Wm. Gillespie and Joe McIntyre. Horses were now used to draw the Hose Wagon and Ladder Truck, and as years went on, more men, horses and modern horse drawn equipment were added to make the Fire Department a first class fire-fighting force.

Then came the age of Motor Driven Fire Apparatus, and on July 7th, 1916, the first motor driven fire truck entered the Brantford Fire Department. It was a Waterous Combination Chemical and Hose Truck which served for a great many years, before it eventually passed the stage of its usefulness.

On January 1st, 1918, a Seagrave Triple Combination (800 gallon) Pumper was installed in the department, and it is still in service. Then other motor trucks were added from time to time such as the McLaughlin Lifeboat Truck on June 6th, 1918, Dodge Ambulance July 11th, 1918, Chief's Car (Dodge Coupe) June 30th, 1919, F.W.D. Combination Chemical and Hose Truck, April 5th, 1920, Studebaker Ambulance, Sept. 6th, 1923, Reo Pumper (600 gallon) June 5th, 1926, F.W.D. Ladder Truck, Nov. 3rd, 1926, and on this date the last of the Fire Horses bade farewell to the Fire Department, which they had served so long and faithful.

Then a Bickle Pumper was purchased on October 29th, 1930, of 650 gallon capacity, another Bickle Pumper (650 gallon) on May 10th, 1934, a new Packard Ambulance on January 1st, 1937, and lastly a new Chief's Car in August, 1938. We have been completely motorized since 1926.

We have only had three permanent Fire Chiefs since the inception of the Permanent Fire Department 52 years ago. The first of the permanent Chiefs was G. D. Calder who was appointed in 1888 and remained head of the department until his demise in 1898. He was succeeded in that year by Chief D. J. Lewis who served approximately 50 years in the department before retiring in May, 1938. Of his total service he served about 40 years as head of the department.

The present Chief, G. E. Huff, succeeded Chief D. J. Lewis as head of the Department in May, 1938. Chief Huff has been a member of the department for over 20 years. Many changes for the improvement of the department have been made under his administration. He was instrumental in having set aside a depreciation fund for the replacing of Fire Apparatus, and this year the City Council graciously allotted the sum of $6,000.00 for this purpose. Assist ant Chief J. E. Townson died in 1938 and instead of appointing" an Assistant Chief, two Lieutenants were appointed. The personnel of the department now consists of a Chief, two Captain, two Lieutenants, Secretary and Fire Prevention Officer, Master Mechanic, Fire Inspector and twenty men. Chief Huff is an ardent and enthusiastic Fire Preventionist, as evidenced by the fact that in 1939 Brantford won First Place in the Province of Ontario in Cities of 25,000 to 100,000, and first place in the Dominion of Canada in competition with Cities of all sizes.