The first fire department in stephenville Crossing, was formed on Feb. 22, 1966. The first fire chief was Mr. David Cashin, who remained in that position until his death in 1971.
One of the first tasks of the newly formed fire department was the purchase of equipment. Used coats, helmets, and hoses were obtained from the Harmon Corporation and were transported around town in a pickup. A new fire hall opened on November 16, 1968.
From 1966 to 1970 members of the fire department responded to the scene of emergencies and if the area was serviced with hydrants they would hook their hoses directly to the hydrant. If no hydrants were available they would have to wait for the fire truck from the town of Stephenville to arrive. There was no regional fire department in the area at that time, so an agreement was made between local departments to respond to any nearby fire if necessary.
From its humble beginnings, the department has had continual growth. In November of 1970 a fire truck was acquired. The department received its first telephone in January of 1971. In 1984, a second vehicle was purchased.
The members refurbished the used cargo van, complete with built-in cabinets in the interior, to be used as an equipment carrier. All the fire fighters turnout gear is stored in the unit, along with breathing apparatus, flash lights and other materials for fire fighting. In 1986 all members were equipped with pagers. The improvements continued and in 1988 a new fire truck was purchased.
The present day department, which is still entirely volunteer, has 18 male members and the fire chief is Mr. George Tobin. The department services an area of approximately 20 miles which encompasses Stephenville Crossing, as well as three Local Service Districts in the region. Although the majority of their area is a residential responsibility, the occasional grass fire does occur. Included in their service area is an Gas Station, which they would be the first to respond to in the case of an emergency situation. They are also responsible for a section of the Trans Canada Highway.
The department now has the equipment needed to fulfill these services, including a 600 pumper, a portable pump, some HazMat equipment, and the Jaws of Life, which is used for a considerable number of their calls.
The Stephenville Crossing Fire Department is a well trained unit, with all fire fighters training at least once a week. They also take advantage of special training in other areas of the province. The members take pride in being as well trained as any paid fire department, which is reflected by the fact that, the fire insurance rates in Stephenville Crossing are the same as rates in towns that have paid fire departments.
The firemen train in all areas of safety including first aid, transportation of dangerous goods, solid fuel burning stoves, all types of rescue and resuscitation. They use all necessary equipment including the Jaws of Life. The training is provided by the Newfoundland Fire Commission and in house training occurs as well.
The department takes a pro-active part in community life, by participating in parades at Christmas and Remembrance Day Services. They help out during fireworks displays, bon fire nights, and during winter carnival. They also work with St. Michaels School on fire drills and programs on fire safety and prevention. During the year they have tours of the fire hall and equipment, which the children in the community enjoy very much.
In 1998, a Firettes group was formed. This supportive group of women provide assistance to the department in many ways, including fund raising, for such things as first aid kits.
As with all volunteer organizations the Stephenville Crossing Volunteer Fire Department is always looking for new members. You must be 18 years old to join and an application can be downloaded at the right. If you have any quesions you can contact the fire chief through the Town Council Office.
A Personal View
On December 31, of this year I was given the unwanted opportunity of viewing a tragic fire in my community. When I began this piece on the volunteer fire department I had never actually seen what a fireman does in a real fire. It was hard to believe, how what we humans view as a necessary part of daily life, can suddenly become a terrible foe. As it is in most small communities residents often view their volunteer fire department as the men that check water hydrants, put out grass fires, participate in fire drills at schools, and take part in community activities when necessary. Thankfully, we are rarely given the opportunity to see for ourselves the heroic and valuable service these people provide.
On the night of the fire I, like many others I’m sure , was transfixed by the fury of the fire. The sights, sounds, and smells, are not something you soon forget. As I looked from a window in the back part of my home, I could see the firemen inside the burning dwelling with their flashlights looking for what I later discovered was a child that had run back into the burning home to rescue his pet dog. I stood and watched as the flames on the second story of the home, just over the firemen’s heads, roared. The smoke was tremendous and at times the home was engulfed completely in thick, dark, smoke. Here and there in little patches, you could see the firemen as they went about their task quickly but professionly. I observed a fireman standing on the roof hosing down the second floor as flames flickered very near to his position.
The flames, smoke, sounds, and smells, are something I will never forget, but they will serve as a reminder to my family and I of what our volunteer fire department faces each time they are called to a fire. You quickly develop a deep respect for the tasks they undertake, with what appears to be little regard for their own safety. During my information gathering for this page I was told by the members that they train and re-train so that it just becomes instinct. They cannot take the time to worry about what could happen because if they did, precious moments that could mean life or death for someone in the fire, could be lost.
The stark reality of fire is that sometimes, no matter how well prepared a fire department is, people can’t be saved. As a whole community mourned the loss of a child, no where was the lost felt any greater than by the members of the fire department. As a resident it was very difficult to watch grown men cry. It was a sobering reminder to people everywhere that fire is something to be respected and used with great care.
I hope my family and I never need the valuable service these men provide, but I am comforted by the fact that if we do need them, they will be there.