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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Winnipeg's fallen firefighters

Brookside Cemetery
In my previous post I took a look at the city's most deadly and notable fires. Now it's time to talk about those who died fighting them.

The volunteer Winnipeg Fire Brigade was created on September, 1873. Since that time, 37 Winnipeg firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. (The official list only includes 36 as one was on assignment with other Winnipeg firefighters in London, England during World War II.)


This post is a work in progress. As I continue to post about fires and firemen I will add links to this site. Eventually each man listed below will have a more detailed write-up here.

Firefighters Down


Four firefighters died in the Winnipeg Theatre Fire of December 1926 when an exterior wall collapsed on them. This appears to be the largest number of fire fighters killed at the scene of a fire. (Image source.)


Brandon's only firefighter killed at the scene of a fire was Fred Brown at the Olympia Block fire of April 1963. Winnipeg Battalion Chief Andrew Hebenton died in hospital soon after being taken to hospital during the Minto Armouries Fire.

One fireman that didn't die in the line of duty, but came close on a number of occasions, is "Fighting Billy" Code. He spent forty years on the force and was considered to hold the record for longest-serving firefighter in Canada at the time of his death in 1940 at the age of 92.

Brookside Cemetery
In all, 37 Winnipeg firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. (The official list only includes 36 as J. S. Coull was on assignment with other Winnipeg firefighters in London, England when he died killed fighting fires during the Blitz.)

I have been slowly but surely been including their names and the details of their life and death into my This Was Manitoba blog. Of the 37 killed, these are the ones I have added so far: 


 John Hector Stewart, 29, January 16, 1908
The Nova Scotia native died at his home at 320 Jarvis Street. He sustained severe frostbite to his feet at the Bright and Johnston Block fire on Bannatyne in December 1907 and never recovered. A five-year veteran of the force, Stewart left a widow and small child. He is buried in Elmwood cemetery.

Captain George Starmer, 53, January 31, 1913
Starmer was severely injured in a November 1911 accident. Responding to what would be a false alarm on Market Street, Starmer's fire wagon was struck by a streetcar. The accident left him shaken and with bouts of paralysis. He returned to work but finally had to retire in 1912 when the paralysis became constant.

In his final days of life colleagues kept an an around-the-clock vigil at his bedside in his home on Smith Street. A 28-year veteran of the force, Starmer left a wife and two children. He is buried in St. James cemetery.

Anthony Gallagher August 14, 1914

Frank Lunny, 30, died February 26, 1915
Lunny was riding the tailboard of a fire engine from Fire Hall No. 2 to a call at 209 Kennedy Street when it was "T-boned" by streetcar 376 at the intersection of Donald and York. Lunny was thrown and died of head injuries three hours later at General Hospital.

He began his career as a street railway firefighter and had just recently joined the city's force. His brother Robert was also a fireman and both were stationed and resided at the hall. Lunny is buried in Elmwood cemetery.

Donald Melville December 23, 1926
Robert Stewart December 23, 1926

Robert Shearer December 23, 1926
Arthur Smith December 23, 1926
J. S. Coull July 3, 1944 (overseas duty)
Frank Sandison March 24, 1945
James Smith March 24, 1945

Frank Christie, 36, February 18, 1952
Christie collapsed at a fire at the Manitoba Barrel and Drum Company at 394 Dufferin Avenue. An hour after returning to the station he died. An inquest determined his death to be a heart attack "…brought on by exertion necessary in the performance of his duties.


Kenneth Ross October 7, 1954
Robert Beatson November 28, 1955
Elford Knox January 25, 1956 
Andrew Hebenton January 22, 1956
Robert Hughes September 13, 1979
Tom Nichols February 4, 2007
Harold Lessard February 4, 2007

1 comment:

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