An old red bicycle hangs from the ceiling inside a building just off Metchosin Road.
Alongside is a plaque telling the story of Alan Emery, who pedalled the bike to the fire hall every time the siren wailed, calling Colwood’s volunteer firefighters into action. The human-powered transport is dubbed one of the region’s first emergency vehicles.
Hundreds of other pieces of history line the walls at the Colwood Firefighters Historical Museum. They are reminders of the history Colwood firefighters still value today, says Lt. Craig Twidale, one of the caretakers of the collection.
“I’ve learned a lot (from) the past and I’m helping preserve the memories of the fellow firefighters that have come and gone,” he says. “When my kids grow up (they can see) this is where I worked … When their kids and their grandkids come by, they can see (it too).”
A Buckle trailer pump issued to the Colwood Fire Brigade during World War II, old hand-pump fire extinguishers, hundreds of metres of retired fire hoses, a 1944 International Fire Truck and a 1955 one-ton 4 x 4 Power Wagon live at the museum, which sits next to Colwood’s No. 1 hall.
The facility is alive because of community support and volunteerism, Twidale says. “It makes you feel good. I enjoy learning about the department and where it has come from and where it’s going.”
The restored International pumper truck, particularly, has been a labour of love for the volunteer crew, he says.
“(It took) two months to hand-sand the ladder, then there was body work to painting, a year of work, most of it volunteer time. Still have a few little things to do.”
With artifacts from as early as 1939, when the Provincial Protection Committee formed Air-Raid Protection (ARP) units in Colwood, Langford and View Royal, the beginnings of the Colwood Volunteer Fire Department’s are preserved at the museum. Old helmets adorn the walls, and turnout gear that once didn’t even include full pants, just hip high boots, hang as if ready for an emergency. Firefighters in decades past wore boots with just a jacket overtop before entering burning buildings.
“I used to wear that stuff; I’ve been around a long time,” says Capt. Frank Gale, “and the science of fire has grown (by) leaps and bounds. It’s no longer ‘run into a burning building and squirt wet stuff on the red stuff.’ There’s quite a science and an art to attacking a fire.”
A firefighter in Colwood since 1975 and a city resident more than 54 years, Gale points out the history display is open to the public. He hopes more people take an interest in stories and artifacts illustrating the hard work and dedication of firefighters past.
“I wanted to service the community and I am very proud of Colwood, always have been,” he says.
“To keep part of the old Colwood is what I really want to do and what I have done all my life.
“You have to watch you don’t lose your heritage.”