The fire fighting history of the town of Fortune is very interesting. We find for many years the only equipment available for fire fighting were buckets. With the very cry of fire, every man, woman and child would participate in some form or another.
The first organized bucket brigade in our town was formed in 1947 by Mr. Russell Lake, the town's first Fire Chief. For years, Mr. Lake fought for fire fighting equipment. On 02 July 1954, the town received approval from the Hobourable Philip S. Forsey that the Department had purchased a fire truck complete with pumps for $3,500.00. So, on 14 August 1954, Mr. Lake travelled to Argentia to get the truck and drive it to St. John's for repairs. The ironic thing about the whole matter was that Mr. Forsey had a change of heart(?) and gave the truck to the town of Burin.
The only protective gear the Fire Department had at that time was a miner's helmet given to Mr. Lake by a friend from Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia. The firefighters had to provide their own rubbers, rain coats, etc.
On 06 April 1955, the town purchased a pick-up truck, one gasoline pump and two hundred feet of hose at a cost of $700.00.
On 16 February 1967, an application was filed with the Department of Finance requesting financial assistance to purchase a new fire truck, complete with hose, protective clothing and two breathing apparatus. On 04 May 1968, a special passing over the keys ceremony was held in the John Burke High School, Grand Bank. The keys of a 1967 fire unit, considered to be the most modern of its kind in the world was passed over to Mayor Tobias Matthews and Fire Chief Russell Lake by Justice Minister Honourable T. Alex Hickman. The cost of the unit was $4,500.00. Following the ceremony there was a motorcade through the town and a reception at the Masonic Hall, Fortune.
The first fire hall was a one bay garage owned by the United Church and was used until the opening of the present Fire Hall, which is attached to the Town Hall.
To continue with improvements of our fire fighting capabilities, the Fortune Volunteer Fire Association was formed November 1968, with George White being the new Fire Chief. Mr. Cecil Lake, Jr. was the Associations first president.
Since that time the Fire Department has strived to improve its equipment and training of its members. In 1967, the Fire Department moved its operation to the newly built Town Hall where it is still located today, with three bays and a training room, equipped with TV, VCR, plus a well-stocked library of training films and literature. The Fortune Fire Department has a mascot and they are actively involved in charitable works, including raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada.
In the beginning the only means of notifying firemen of a fire was by sounding a siren, which was located on the Town Hall. When this siren would go off, it brought crowds out and caused mass confusion for the firemen. Later a phone system was installed which allowed firemen to respond without everyone in town knowing about it.
In 1985 a state-of-the-art paging system was installed allowing fifteen men to respond immediately. The Fire Department is equipped with a Fire Training Ground, which contains two circular pits, a cross pit and a smoke house for training purposes. With the growth of our town and the aging of our present fire truck, an application was filed with government for the purchase of a new fire truck. On 02 July 1989 the keys of a new 1989, 840-gallon pump was passed over to Deputy Fire Chief James Dunne and Town Superintendent Earl Rose. This truck is fully loaded with hoses, Jaws of Life, power tools and foam nozzles. The Fortune Fire Department is presently equipped with one water pumper, a fully equipped Emergency Vehicle, three portable pumps, eight breathing apparatus and a variety of other fire fighting eqiupment.
With the need for better training, four of our firemen are trained instructors, enabling them to train other members of the Fire Department. We have twenty-four dedicated firemen, including our first female member - Sandra Moores, who train on a regular basis to upgrade the skills needed to operate this new equipment and protect our town in case of fire.
Over forty-eight years, the Fortune Fire Department has grown from a bucket brigade to a Fire Department we can stand and be proud of. They are recognized around the province as being one of the most skilled and dedicated volunteer units in the country.