THE GERARD J. KELLY MEMORIAL FIREFIGHTERS HERITAGE MUSEUM
The History of the Marystown Volunteer Fire Department, 1967 to Present...
The Gerard J. Kelly Memorial Firefighters Heritage Museum is located at the rear of the Marystown Fire Hall on McGhettigan Boulevard. Under the direction of the Heritage Committee Chairperson, the Heritage Committee preserves the heritage of the Marystown Volunteer Fire Department, and provides a showcase of the past in the Heritage Museum. The Heritage Museum can be viewed at your request or anytime the Fire Chief or any firefighters are at the fire hall.
Check out some pictures of our past in the Over the Years Photo Album(Below) or other photo albums on our Photo Galleries Page!
The year 1966 marked the beginning of rapid growth and dramatic change in the Town of Marystown. The Honorable Premier Joseph R. Smallwood announced the construction of two major industries, a modern fish plant and shipyard. Employment created through the construction of these industries, combined with the promise of a bright and prosperous future for the town, resulted in a rapid influx of population.
Although elated with the welcomed and long awaited progress of Marystown, the Town Council was faced with the tremendous task of providing facilities to meet substantially increased demands. A fairly new town, incorporated in 1951, with a population of less than 2000 and with practically no services or facilities in place, the convenience of a first town water supply was not enjoyed until 1966.
The Town experienced a growth period, like it had never before dreamed of in its history. Homes were being built everywhere, a major housing development was undertaken by CMHC, a motel and a large shopping mall were under construction, schools were being constructed or increased in size. More buildings and more people meant a greater likelihood of fires breaking out and the realized need for fire protection.
Until now the only fire protection was a volunteer 'Bucket Brigade'. Acting on a directive from Council, Town Manager Art Colbourne, called a meeting in an attempt to form an official Fire Department. Sixteen capable men responded and Mr. Alex Stapleton was appointed by Council as the first Fire Chief.
Council provided the new Fire Department with two portable pumps and a pickup truck that had been in use for other town purposes. Representation was made to the Provincial Government and the town was successful in obtaining a new fire truck which, at that time, cost approximately $30,000. The keys to the new truck were officially passed to Fire Chief Stapleton in front of the old town hall on Ville Marie Drive. Fire Chief Stapleton, on behalf of the newly formed Department, requested that the old town garage be converted into the Town's first Fire Hall.
According to Mr. Stapleton, the first fire that the new truck responded to was at the government wharf. A house trailer had been brought in on a freighter. Shipyard workers had to release cables holding the trailer by burning them with torches. During this process some sparks got into the insulation, smoldered for a while and later ignited. The fire was brought under control without incident or injury.
Mr. Alonzo Cusick was appointed Fire Chief from 1968 to 1975. During his tenure, a presentation was made to Council for more adequate facilities to house the fire truck and new emergency fire ambulance that was donated by the Marystown Kinsmen Club. A new Fire hall was approved by Council and with the co-operation of each member of the Fire Department the new building, costing approximately $65,000, became a reality and was officially opened October 1976.
Mr. Gerald Letiec was appointed Fire Chief in 1976. One of his top priorities was a new pumper truck for this ever expanding town. His efforts were realized and the capabilities of the volunteer Fire Brigade were greatly boosted with the arrival of the second pumper in 1977. The new 840 pumper cost approximately $53,000.00 and was a joint project of the Provincial Government and the Marystown Town Council. Fire Prevention programs were greatly enhanced through Fire Chief Letiec's efforts as a member of the Brigade for several more years.
Mr. Gerard Kelly was appointed Fire Chief in 1980 and held that position for twenty one years. Under his direction the capabilities of the fire department have continued to expand and its fire prevention programs have received continuous provincial and national recognition.
In 1981 the Department added a Communications System which came complete with a base station and decoder, two mobile radios and 26 pagers. This system increased the mobility of firemen in the community and as well reduced response time to fire calls. A training facility was built in 1982 with the help of $100, 000 in grants from the Federal Government. This facility included a smoke house, training tower and two fire pits. This facility continues to provide a training locale for all Fire Departments on the Burin Peninsula.
The year 1983 was an exceptionally rewarding year. The Department won the coveted award for having the best Fire Prevention Education Program in all of Canada and was runner up for the provincial "Best Fire Department of the Year Award". Fire Chief Kelly was recognized for his efforts by being selected as Marystown's "Outstanding Citizen of the Year". A new emergency vehicle, the first of it's kind in the province was also delivered in 1983 and an air compressor and air purification system was also added to the list of equipment.
The need for emergency planning was introduced in 1984 and was recognized by Provincial Emergency measures due to the fact that the town of Marystown is the centre of the most industrialized area of the province. This resulted in the town receiving approval for $37, 532 under the Federal/ Provincial Joint Emergency Preparedness Program to purchase a new emergency communications system. This acquisition permitted the permanent installation of a very successful emergency aid for the area.
A major expansion to the Fire Hall was approved in 1985. The extension which cost approximately $300,000, was built in phases over a number of years and raised the status of the Fire Hall to its being recognized as one of the most modern facilities in this province. Other additional Emergency Life Saving Equipment purchased by means of fund raising ventures and donations in recent years were the Halmatro, Heavy Hydraulics, water and ice Halmatro Rescue Board, a rescue saw and others. A new Cube Rescue Vehicle was also purchased in 1990.
Over the past thirty years our Fire Department has done an excellent job in providing training and fire prevention to the Town of Marystown and its surrounding area. Approximately one hundred men, and three women have served the Department for varying periods, some for only a few months, others for several years. The Department, at present, has a roster of 30 members. In addition, a ladies auxiliary known as the Marystown Fire Wrens provide invaluable service to the Department - their main function being fund raising for fire fighting and emergency equipment.
Over the years the Marystown Volunteer Fire Department has proven its outstanding capabilities in the many awards and recognitions received. Some of these awards have been: the Newfoundland Telephone Award for Most Outstanding Volunteer Fire Department of the Year for 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1991. They were also runner up for this award in 1989 and 1990. Also, during the past number of years the Fire Department has put in place a very aggressive Fire Prevention Program. Their efforts have been recognized by receiving the "Best Fire Prevention Program for the Year Award", for the years 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991 of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In 2001 Mr. Alex Coady became Fire Chief. He became a full-time employee of the Fire Department in 2009 and retired in 2020. He has seen many changes over the years, and advancements in equipment with the help of modern day technology. Mr Coady has overseen his firefighters participate in many community events such as breakfast programs at the local schools, fundraisers and parades for different events. Under his rein Mr. Coady has also seen new Fire Trucks and Rescue Trucks added to the fleet, the most recent was in 2013 when the current Ladder truck came into service.
In November 2020, Justin Bolt was appointed as Fire Chief upon the retirement of Chief Coady. In December of 2021, the Department welcomed the new Rescue #6, a 2021 Freightliner/Metalfab walk-in Rescue state of the art for responding to technical rescue, fires, hazmat incidents and more in and outside town.
From the moment of its inauguration in 1967 to this present day, our local Fire Department members have sacrificed endless hours away from their families and friends in their untiring efforts to promote a fire safe environment.
Presently there are more than twenty large photo albums at the Fire Hall displaying activities and memories captured over the years. Some of these activities included the Fire Festival Week and the crowning of the first Fire Festival Queen, Miss Rita Stapleton, in 1975. There are pictures showing activities during each Fire Prevention week such as; displays in malls and other public buildings, classroom visits containing films, lectures and distribution of Fire Prevention literature, various contests and awards promoting the fire prevention message, fund raising, inspections, etc. Other activities include preparation of floats and participation in each years Christmas Parade, involvement in Canada Day celebrations, teaching a baby sitting course, organizing the annual Fire Ball, fund raising for Muscular Dystrophy and the list could continue for several more pages.
Statistics show that although our population has continuously increased over the past twenty-five years the number of fire calls continues to decrease. As a result there has been a subsequent reduction in loss of life and property damage. We can be assured that this achievement can be attributed to various Fire Prevention Programs.
The Marystown Town Council, on behalf of all its citizens, are thankful to all Firefighters for their courage, determination, devotion to duty and honor towards fire service.