Halifax Municipal Archives: Fire Department Photographs

Written by guest blogger, Elena Cremonese, Archives Assistant


Looking back

In recognition of Fire Prevention Week, opens a new window October 4-10, 2020, Halifax Municipal Archives, opens a new window wants to highlight its Fire Department records, including an amazing collection of photographs.

Across the Dartmouth, Halifax, County, Bedford, and HRM Fire Departments, there are photos of everything from training, outreach, ladder demonstrations, the aftermath of fire scenes, to firefighters in the act of battling blazes.

Fire trucks 

Many of our photographs of stations also include some type of display of the firetrucks themselves. Though I am by no means an expert, it is fascinating to see how the trucks have changed over the years.

Click to view images and captions.

Equipment demonstrations

We have several photographs of public equipment demos over the years. While many of the later photographs of this type of community outreach show important safety demonstrations, like how to use a fire extinguisher, some of the most visual demonstrations are the ladder demonstrations.

Click to view images and captions.


Another important part of the fire department’s community outreach was, of course, parades. From fire prevention information, to general inspection, to Natal Day, the fire department’s presence has been known at many parades over the years.

Click to view images and captions.

On the scene

Finally, many of the most arresting photographs in the Halifax Fire Department series are of firefighters on scene and in action, as well as some that depict the aftermath of fires. They can be quite dramatic, and even distressing, but they can also be valuable sources of information regarding equipment and procedure. These photos can also show former buildings and streetscapes in Halifax, providing incidental but interesting historical information.

Click to view images and captions.

By far the bulk of textual records that Halifax Municipal Archives has on firefighting comes from the Halifax Fire Department, with some of the records dating back to the early fire-fighting units such as the Union Engine Company in the mid-1800s.

Records and resources

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We have annual reports for the Dartmouth Fire Department, opens a new window and the Halifax Fire Department, opens a new window. The reports can include statistics on calls, damages, summaries of major fires, and overviews of equipment.

We also have scrapbooks from the Halifax Fire Department, opens a new window from as early as 1912, composed of newspaper clippings, photographs, reports, publications, and communications regarding fires and the Halifax Fire Department. For fans of ephemera, they’re interesting objects in and of themselves, but they also show what the Fire Department found notable about the year, as well as acting as a record of major fires.

The Halifax Fire Department also has a collection of awards, opens a new window including expressions of gratitude to individuals of the Halifax Fire Department as well as the department itself, dating from 1886-1991.

Another great resource is the Halifax Fire Department’s records of fires, opens a new window. These ledgers recording calls attended by the City of Halifax Fire Department, called "companies records," and "records of fires," span 1903-1917, 1919-1922, 1931-1939, 1946-1980. The companies’ records include the date, time, address of fire, number of ladders raised and the gallons of chemicals used. 

Many of the personnel files from the Halifax Fire Department are still restricted due to personal information, but records that were created over 100 years ago are available to access. We love this letter from Union Engine Company, No. 2 Division commending their first and second officers for “gallant conduct and untiring exertions.” For their conduct in “the hour of danger,” the officers received firemen’s badges from the company.

Other firefighting-related records that might be of interest include the Halifax Board of Fire Escapes, opens a new window, the Halifax Committee of Firewards records, opens a new window, and the County of Halifax Fire Advisory Committee, opens a new window.

And, we couldn’t possibly finish this post without mentioning the Halifax Fire Historical Society, opens a new window, another excellent resource for HRM firefighting history! The firefighters involved in this community group love to share their vast knowledge.

Contact archives@halifax.ca to request a research visit or copies of any of our records.