Our History

Prior to 1881

There are no records of an organized fire brigade in Woodstock prior to 1881. However, a volunteer force had existed for many years. Captain Wilson was the central figure of the volunteer force.

Creation of the fire department

On May 25, 1881, the Fire, Water and Light Committee held a meeting to create a fire department.

Original fire hall

The original fire hall was located at the rear of the town hall.

The equipment consisted of a horse, a fire cart and a driver who was on duty to answer calls at anytime.

Farmer the horse

Farmer was a big, brown steed that was in his glory when he was racing down the street to a fire with the crowds following him. He is one of the best-remembered horses to pull the 2-wheeled fire cart.

Fire warning system

In addition to our fire hall, we had a bell tower located in the east and west ends of town.

The towers rang for 3 reasons:

  • Fire
  • Curfew
  • Missing children

If you discovered a fire, you ran to the fire hall or nearest bell tower yelling, "FIRE!" At the bell tower, you would grab the rope and ring the bell and wait for the fire brigade to arrive before directing Farmer and the rest of the team to the fire.

If the fire was within hose length of a hydrant, the fire was dealt with directly. If a hydrant wasn't near by, a bucket brigade had to be formed and the leather buckets that hung on the side of the cart would be used to transport water to the scene.

James Hay

Originally, bucket brigades were the only way to transport water to a fire.

However, James Hay, the father of the late T.L. Hay, decided that his furniture company needed fire protection and he installed the necessary equipment. He made it possible for the town's business area to have a water supply to fight fires and to keep down the dust.

New fire hall

The quest for a fire hall started in 1880 but faced some strong opposition. In 1899, under the leadership of W.A. Kam, Chairman of the Fire and Light Committee, a plan was presented to the residents of Woodstock. The residents agreed to the plan and a new fire hall was constructed later that year on Perry Street.

The original cost of the building was $7,500 but with the installation of the latest in electric alarm systems, the cost increased to $10,000.

Horse-drawn equipment was being used when the hall was opened. Farmer and 3 other horses had stables on the ground floor and the firemen were located on the second floor.

The bell in the tower was engraved with the names of the council members.

Firefighter compliment

The brigade consisted of 15 men:

5 firefighters spent the night at the hall

3 were on duty at all times:

  • Chief Johnson, Fire Chief
  • Driver Mclean, served for 15 years
  • Alf Thurlow, served for 12 years

Motorized fire equipment

Farmer retired on January 17, 1903, but it was not until 1920 that motorized fire equipment completely replaced horses.

Continued Growth

Since the beginning, the department has continued to grow in manpower, equipment and stations.

In 1975, a second station was built in the southeast comer of the city, housing firefighters and administrative offices. At this time, the original 1899 fire hall became a sub-station.

In the late 1980s, the original fire hall had deteriorated to the point it could no longer be used. The sub-station was moved to the City Board of Works where the truck was housed in the bus garage, and the firefighters were housed in a construction trailer.

In 1990, firefighters were moved from the bus garage to a new sub-station located in the northwest corner of the city.

The original fire hall today

The original 1899 fire hall still stands today. It's been purchased by a private enterprise that restored the exterior of the building to its early condition. It's now used as office space for a group that provides services to the community.

Contact Us

© 2017 City of Woodstock P.O. Box 1539, 500 Dundas Street, Woodstock, ON N4S 0A7


Phone: 519-539-1291
Email: General Information

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