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BFD History

After only two years in office, Chief Huff was recognized provincially and nationally for his efforts in providing the citizens of Brantford with excellent fire and ambulance services. In 1939, the Brantford Fire Department placed first for cities of 25,000 to  100,000 in population in the Ontario Fire Prevention Awards and won first place in the Dominion of Canada awards for cities of all sizes. The Brantford Fire Department “was a leader to other departments in Canada, specifically in the area of fire prevention”, during this time.

Chief Huff was also a recognized leader and a local hero among the citizens of Brantford after World War II. He organized a contingent of Canadian fire fighters called the “Canadian Corp of Overseas Fire Fighters.” Charlie Townson, Tom Mason, Frank Ion and Chas. Wheatley, all from the Brantford Fire Department, joined the CCOFF. Their job was to fight the fires in England created by the blitz. Although this contingent was not an official branch of the military, Huff was commissioned a brigadier general and was stationed in England for three years. For his heroic efforts and leadership, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire.

During the war years, while Chief Huff was in England, the Brantford Fire Department was under the direction of the Acting Chief G.A. Bremner. During Huff’s absence, Bremner was able to obtain special permission from the provincial government to  purchase the department’s first hyd raulic ladder truck in 1944. The hydraulic truck was an important piece of equipment, as it enabled the fire fighters to reach very high buildings. The ladder was raised through a “power take off” system with the truck’s transmission. It powered the heavy ladder by pressurizing two hydraulic oil pistons to raise and lower the ladder.31 This piece of equipment was state of the art at the time of its purchase and hydraulic ladder trucks (aerials) remain today as a staple truck in  the fire department.

After the war, Huff continued to strive for improvements in the department to serve the needs of Brantford’s citizens. Public demonstrations of the different trucks and equipment were held to increase awareness of fire prevention. Meanwhile, he decreased the working hours of the firefighters from 96 hours a week to 56. The men received 2 days off and 14 days vacation.  In order to compensate for the decreased hours, additional firefighting positions were opened. In 1940 the station employed only 28 men but by 1950 the staff had grown to 50.

In 1947, Huff introduced the department to the mobile radio system. There was now communication between the fire station and the men who were on the scene at the fire. This communication was important to relay information such as directions, false alarms and the need for back- up. This was a “vital addition to the department’s efficiency.”

During Huff’s time as chief, Brantford’s population increased rapidly, from 31, 497 in 1940 to 37, 129 in 1950. In order to serve the population to the best of their ability, the fire department needed a new facility to house the equipment and their quarters.  A dispatch room and training facilities were important aspects of the new facility. The new hall was built on Newport Street in 1953. It was occupied in January of 1954 and was the last major achievement for Chief Huff, who passed away, still in office, in July of 1954.

With the passing of Chief Huff, former Captain William Lambert was promoted to chief and headed the department until 1961. Lambert was instrumental in organizing the Brant County Mutual Aid System. This system linked all seven departments in the county of Brant, and would enable quick assistance to a department if it was needed. If a department “was committed, they could call for outside assistance and Brantford would be there to help.” Chief Lambert was the first county coordinator.

Chief Lambert was also instrumental in obtaining a second fire hall to improve the department’s fire protection in Brantford. Lambert believed that an additional station was needed in the city’s north end due to its rapid growth. The need for an addition station is a combination of “the response time to a particular area, the number of responses needed in the area and the number of people in a particular area.” There was a large population increase in Brantford from 1950 to 1955. By 1955 the city had grown from 37,129 (its population in 1950) to 50,925. The area that the department was responsible for protecting had also grown rapidly. In 1950 it was 5.5 square miles, while in 1955 it was 17.85 square miles. There was a need for an additional station, and  the city agreed. In 1961, Fire Station #2 opened on St. Pauls Ave. In order to staff the new facility, the strength of the department grew from 50 men in 1954 to 85 in 1961. Hours were also cut for the firefighters during this time; they now worked 48 hours a  week. Additional equipment was also purchased in order to protect the citizens of Brantford. Two pumpers, a 100 foot aerial ladder truck and a rescue truck were added to the department.