Canora and District Fire Department achieves 110th anniversary

In 2018, the Canora and District Fire Department is recognizing its 110th anniversary during Fire Prevention Week.  The department has gone through numerous and wide-ranging changes since it was started in 1908, which was documented in History of Canora 1905-1990:

Canora Fire Brigade

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“The first firefighting equipment was bought in 1908. Two chemical engines were ordered on a trial basis. The town needed something that didn’t use too much water as the water supply was limited.

“When they arrived on May 19, 1908, followed by a representative of the firm a week later, everyone came out to watch the demonstration of fire engines. After the fire was extinguished, the council agreed to complete the deal. Up to this time, Canora only had a bucket brigade. Along with the purchase of the engines, a hundred-pound bell, an extension ladder and suitable fire axes and water pails were purchased.

“The next day a meeting was held and firemen were elected. W.J. Fennell was Canora’s first fire chief. He was an implement agent who was elected as one of the first three councillors of the village of Canora and then he was appointed as overseer.

“Part of the training was to see which brigade would get to the fire first, which the chief had started, and put water on it.

“When Mr. Fennell resigned, J.M. Madison was elected Fire Chief in 1910. The old engines gave the town a great deal of service. They were not powerful enough to be of too much help. All the buildings were built of flammable material. But the engines were excellent help in keeping the fire from spreading to other buildings. They were the only means of fighting fire until the town installed its first water system in 1912.

“For demonstration, streams of water were thrown over a three-storey hotel and over an elevator. It all worked very well. The hose and hydrants were sufficient to protect the businesses and a greater part of the residential sections.

“J.B. McIntosh became the fire chief in 1928 and served as such for many years. He was a member of the school board, a councillor and a mayor from 1932 to 1938. He kept his men well trained and took interest in town affairs.

“When the water works was completed, the town was able to put in a complete fire fighting system.

“Dmetro Dennis was appointed as fire chief in 1938, succeeding Alvin Pollock who served as fire chief for two years. Dennis was an employee at Garvin’s Hardware Store for over 30 years.

Dennis remained on the brigade for many years as a fireman when W.P. Kyba was elected in 1948.

“Kyba served in the armed services with the R.C.A.F. (Royal Canadian Air Force.) He opened the Canora Sheet Metal Works in 1946 and joined the Canora Fire Brigade in the same year. In 1963, he was elected and served as president of the Saskatchewan Association of Firemen. Due to ill health, he was forced to retire by the end of 1964.

“Vice-Chief Nestor Ortynsky was the next fire chief from 1965 to 1969. Ortynsky is a co-owner of Canora Central Motors. At the same time, Alex Dennis was elected as a secretary, when M. Dutka retired after serving as a secretary from 1948 to 1965. Alex Dennis had been a fireman for 30 years, 15 years as a secretary.

“Fred Dutchak assumed the position of fire chief in 1969 and retired in 1978. Dutchak joined the firemen in 1949. He was transferred to Canora by Canada West Grain Co, since taken over by the Sask. Pool Elevators Ltd. He served on the town council for several years, from 1956 to 63 inclusive. He headed such departments as water, sewage, social welfare, streets and sidewalks.

“Millard Landstad, a Shell bulk oil agent who joined the fire department in 1970, was fire chief from 1978 until his resignation in April of 1986. Peter Ostafichuk, who also joined the fire department in 1970, became secretary in 1970 and remained in that position until May, 1986. He is a co-owner in W. and P. Plumbing and Heating Ltd.

“Bill Rehaluk was elected as fire chief in April, 1986. Rehaluk joined the fire department in February, 1974, and was elected vice-chief in 1982. He is a co-owner of W. and P. Plumbing and Heating Ltd. and is a member of the Canora Rescue Unit.

“In 1986, three vice-chiefs were elected. They were Peter Ostafichuk, Doug Becking and Don Gabora. As well, three captains were elected. They were: Jerry Danyluk, Vern Wonsiak and Paul Bodnarchuk.

“Vern Wonsiak took over the position of secretary from May, 1986 until his resignation from the Canora Fire Department on May 7, 1988. Jerry Danyluk became secretary on May 7, 1988 and remained in that position until December, 1989.

“Fire trucks from the Town of Canora were not allowed out of town until the Rural Fire Protection Agreement was signed on September 5, 1985. The agreement was signed by mayor Lorne Kopelchuk and Town Administrator Pat Dergousoff on behalf of the Town of Canora; Adolph Matsalla, Administrator and George Stevens, Reeve of the RM of Sliding Hills No. 273; Dave Popowich, Administrator and James B. Homeniuk, Reeve of the RM of Good Lake No. 274; and George Dranchuk, Administrator and John Kezima, Reeve of the RM of Keys No. 303.

“On May 5, 1986, with the purchase of a new fire truck being shared between the Town of Canora and the participating RMs, fire protection was offered with the understanding that volunteers from the affected municipalities make up part of the firefighting group. Only three fire-fighters from the Town are required to accompany the truck in the event of a rural fire, thus leaving the two “town only” fire trucks and the rest of the men in Canora in case they should be needed.

“In the agreement, the municipalities were to supply and pay for the training of at least three people in each municipal division to assist in fighting fires. These included RMs of Good Lake (all divisions), Sliding Hills (Divisions 3 to 6) and Keys (Divisions 2 and 3.)

“The Canora Fire Department continues to upgrade its equipment and conduct many practices and meetings to keep the firemen up to date on the latest means of fire protection.

“The volunteer firemen have undertaken the Annual Firemen’s Ball, held on the first Saturday of February each year, as a means of raising money for many charities including the Canora Union Hospital, the Gateway Lodge Multiple Sclerosis Society, Telemiracle and the Burn Center. They will also be purchasing an air compressor for filling air tanks to enable the firemen to enter burning buildings more safely.” 

After the history book was published, Bill Rehaluk served as fire chief until 1998. Wayne Sawka took over for a portion of 1998, followed by Wally Huebert from 1998 to 1999. Rod Petrychyn was the fire chief from ’99 to 2006. Darcy Rewakowsky took over the position from 2007 to 2009. Blake Cairns and Shannon Leson each served as fire chief for a portion of 2010. Mike Doogan has been the fire chief since 2011.