top of page

The History of the Dunnville Fire Department


Companies and Early Apparatus

Since the mid 1800’s, the town of Dunnville has been fortunate to have volunteers who dedicated their lives to ensure the safety of others.  The first Dunnville Fire Brigade was formed in Dunnville on September 6, 1847 and was a bucket brigade which proved effective in keeping down the fire loss in the town.

In 1853, the Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company was formed to work along with the bucket brigade due to the fact that the town of Dunnville had grown to a population of over 800 people. 

The first piece of fire fighting equipment purchased by Dunnville was the hand drawn, hand operated fire engine called the "Triumph" which was bought from the city of Buffalo in 1854 for $200.00.  It had been built in England in 1837 and was the first fire engine used by the city of Buffalo.

In 1861, when Buffalo changed from hand operated fire engines to horse drawn steam engines, Dunnville once again bought their modern hand operated fire engine called the "George Washington" for a sum of $700.00. 


This Button and Blake hand pumper had been built in Seneca Falls New York in 1860 and Dunnville had the distinction of owning the first and last hand operated fire engines used in the city of Buffalo.

The "George Washington", as the pumper was called, was renamed "Live Oak" and replaced the "Triumph" as the major fire fighting unit of the town.  The "Triumph" was later placed in storage and in 1887 a fire destroyed the storage shed and the old hand engine.  The hand operated fire engine, “Live Oak” was restored to operating condition in 1967 and is presently standing proudly in the Dunnville Fire Station.

With the advent of the hand pumpers, the bucket brigade was reorganized into the Dunnville Fire Company which included the Live Oak Engine Company, and the Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company. Later in 1870, The Live Oak Hose Company was also formed.  In 1875 there were 62 members on the roll of the Dunnville Fire Company.  

When the town grew larger, and put in water mains and hydrants in 1890, The Live Oak Engine Company, as well as the Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company was disbanded and many of its members joined The Live Oak Hose Company which continued as an organization until about 1930 when the name was changed to the Dunnville Volunteer Fire Department.


Department Chiefs and Buildings

Over the past 175 years, the Dunnville Fire Department and its predecessors have had a total of only 9 chiefs and this is rather unique as one of them served for a total of 50 years.  The records available show them serving in the following years:

John Oldfield                                       1854    -      1904


J.H. Smith                                             1904    -      1924


George H. Smith                                 1924    -      1932


Bert C. Phillips                                     1932    -      1942


James Malcolm Bowden                 1942    -      1971


Gerald H. McCarthy                          1971    -      1987


David  Crysler                                     1987    -     2000


David Warnick                                    2000   -     2020

Frank Kielbowich                               2021    -    Present

Another rather unique event of the Dunnville Volunteer Fire Department is the annual Decoration Day church service and parade which has been held continually since 1897 and is believed to be the only one still run by a fire department.

Over the years, the apparatus has been stored in various locations around town.  The most recent ones being the combination fire station and town hall, which was situated on Chestnut Street. It was built in 1874 and housed the trucks until the new modern fire station was erected in 1968. The present facilities consist of three double truck bays, offices and membership club rooms which takes care of the fire department needs for many years to come.


The most recent addition was the erection of a bell tower in front of the fire station which houses the old 1868 fire bell which was situated in the belfry of the old fire station.  Also incorporated in the base of the bell tower is the building stone from the old fire station dated from 1874. 


This tower was erected on the 125th anniversary of the establishment of fire fighting in Dunnville on September 6, 1972 to honour those fire fighters of past years who dedicated their services to the Town of Dunnville.  It is a symbol of the sacrifice that all our fighters gave, and continue to do so today.

The Dunnville Volunteer Fire Department has seen many changes over the years, the most significant one being in January of 2001, which saw the elimination of Regional Government in Haldimand-Norfolk, and the Town of Dunnville becoming part of Haldimand County. This was soon followed by the closing of two neighboring fire stations. The first was the Moulton fire station in 2013, and this was followed by the Byng fire station in 2015. Both districts were amalgamated to Dunnville, and the Dunnville station is now known as Haldimand County Station #9.  

Through 175 years of traditions, many “brothers” have come and gone, but their legacy and commitment to service and professionalism carries on.  The dedication, wisdom and vision of these fire fighters continue to carry on today, and long into the future.

bottom of page