||Prior to 1881
There is no record of any organized fire brigade for Woodstock prior to 1881, but before that date there had existed for many years a volunteer force of which a Captain Wilson was for a long time the central figure.
1881 the 25th of May
A meeting was held under the auspices of the Fire, Water and Light committee, of the Town Council to constitute a fire department.
The Original Fire Hall
The original hall was located at the rear of the town hall.
The equipment consisted of one horse, one fire cart and a driver who was on duty to answer a call at anytime.
Farmer the Horse
One of the best remembered horses to pull the two wheeled cart was "Farmer", a big brown steed who appeared to be in his glory when he was racing down the street to a fire with the crowds following.
Fire Warning System
There were two bell towers, one located in the east end of the town and one in the west end of town. They were rung for three reasons fire, time of curfew, and a missing child. In case of fire the procedure to follow was to run to the nearest tower calling out " Fire as you ran. At the tower you would grab the rope and ring the bell and as if by magic Farmer and company would streak into action. Of course if the fire was in the heart of town you simply ran to the station and delivered the message. It was necessary to make sure that somebody stayed at the bell to direct the fire department to the scene of the fire.
Once at the fire two courses of action were possible . If the fire was within hose length of a hydrant the fire was dealt with directly, while if beyond , a bucket brigade had to be formed and the leather buckets that hung on the side of the cart would be brought into action.
Originally it was all bucket brigade until 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 also made it possible for the town’s business section to have a water supply to fight fires and to keep down the dust.
1899 a New Fire Hall Was Built
The battle for a fire hall started in 1880 but every bylaw was doomed even before the ink was dry. In 1899 the clouds of dissension cleared and under the leadership of W.A. Kam, who was chairman of the fire and light committee, a plan was presented to the people which they accepted wholeheartedly and the new hall was erected the same year.
The cost of the building was $7500.00 and with the installation of the latest in electric alarm systems the cost increased to $ 10,000.00. Horse-drawn equipment was being used when the hall was opened. Farmer the faithful fire horse was completing 15 years in the service of Woodstock. He was assisted by three others and their stables were located on the ground floor and the firemen had the second floor. The bell in the tower was rather unique as it was engraved with the names of the council members.
The brigade consisted of 15 men, five of whom spent the night at the hall. Three were on duty at all times. There were Chief Johnson who had been made chief in 1873, driver Mclean with 15 years service and Alf Thurlow with 12 years service.
Farmer was retired on January 17, 1903, but it was not until 1920 that the last of this type of equipment was replaced with motorized equipment.
Since the early times the department has continued to grow in manpower, equipment and stations. In 1975 a second station was built in the south-east comer of the city housing both firefighters and administrative offices and the original hall built in 1899 became a sub-station. In the late 1980’s 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 the firefighters were moved from the bus garage to a new sub-station located in the north-west comer of the city.
The original hall built in 1899 still stands and has been purchased by private enterprise who have restored the exterior of the building to its early condition. The interior has been changed to offices space.