The roots of fire fighting in Jasper National Park date back more than 100 years. The earliest record of origin was when the Dominion of Canada decided to hire Fire Game Wardens for some of the National Parks. In 1910 Lewis Swift was hired to be the Fire Game Warden for Jasper. In 1912 a second Warden was added for the town, Alex McDougall, with at least one temporary Warden by the name of Bulwell or Burwell. From this point forward until 1914 little is known.
In 1914 Dougald Maclachlan constructed a fire hall at the North East corner of Elm and Geikie Streets (where there is currently a boulder and plaque commemorating the Jasper School District). In this hall was stored a Brandon Chemical Wagon drawn by two roan horses. A caretaker lived in the building and it was his job to keep the building warm and equipment maintained, on top of his regular job at the government garage.
The Fire Department was composed of Dominion Government employees and wardens and were aided by local able-bodied citizens when on scene. These firefighters were also involved in the suppression of forest fires.
The crowning moment of the young department came in 1921 with the arrival of a motor powered REO-Bickle pump truck. On board was 2,600 feet of 2 ½ inch hose, two nozzles, and the capability of 195 gallons per minute at 58 pounds of pressure. This truck also had the capability of having the wheels removed to be replaced by wheel flanges thus allowing it to be used on the railroad tracks.
Fire fighters were summoned to the hall for a fire by way of a small bell on the hall as well as a steam whistle mounted atop the railroad's round house.
1936 - 2003
The year 1936 brought about the completion of a new hall located at the corner of Patricia and Elm Streets. With the new hall came a recommendation from the Western Canada Fire Underwriters’ Association to form a fire brigade of volunteers from the community as there were times that the wardens were unavailable and so the Jasper Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed with the assistance of the also newly formed Jasper Chamber of Commerce.
In 1948 a dispatch office was added to the building, and in 1973 a third bay was constructed. In addition to firefighting the fire brigade operated the local ambulance service until 1985.
2003 – Present
2003 brought with it the construction of a new fire hall as the needs of the town and National Park had outgrown what the now antiquated fire hall could provide. The new emergency services building was designed to house not only the fire department but also local EMS and act as a command station in the event of a large disaster scenario.
The work of tracing out Jasper Fire Department history is ongoing. It is based upon the people, equipment and events that have contributed to the story of the JVFB. If you or your family have photos or stories connected or related to the Fire Brigade we would love to hear from you.