Since the turn of the last century, through two World Wars and on into the new millennium, the Ladysmith Fire / Rescue Service has been protecting property and saving lives. This is their story:
You are a young man in Ladysmith at the turn of the last century, trying to carve out a life for yourself and your family. Chances are, you work in the coal mines - long, back-breaking hours of toil for very little wage. But you're building a dream, and you'll do anything to protect it.
Some of your friends tell you that the town is forming a Volunteer Fire Brigade, and you happily join up, wanting to do your part to serve your fledgling community. You are among the fourteen men who form the first Ladysmith Fire Department.
You are given a wool sweater with "LFD" stitched on the front, which you wear proudly. And this sweater will be your only protection when you are called, day or night, to extinguish a blaze.
You and your comrades do not have any easy task. This is a coal town - built of wood, with coal dust everywhere. Any spark, at any time, could ignite a catastrophe. There are no fire hydrants, only two "fire wells" set aside for the use of the volunteers. You have three large, heavy hose carts that must be pulled, often up steep hills, to reach a fire.
But you have taken an oath to protect the lives and property of the people of your community, and you do what is necessary, with whatever equipment you have, at no regard for your personal sacrifice.
You are a Firefighter.
The first motorized apparatus used by the Ladysmith Fire Department was a 1914 Cadillac Soda Acid pumper, affectionately known as "Old Lizzie". Ladysmith was a thriving coal port in the 'Roaring Twenties', and the ranks of the LFD increased. Notable fires of the era included the Ladysmith Lumber and Shingle Mill, which burned down in 1920. "Old Lizzie" was purchased in 1923, and was used in conjunction with the old hose carts.
The second motorized apparatus used by the Ladysmith Fire Department was purchased in 1931. It was a 1926 Chevrolet chassis, into which the Firefighters dropped the box from "Old Lizzie", who was gracefully retired.
After this second apparatus had served its time, it too was put out to pasture, sold off and stored in a shed in Ladysmith. Apparently not overjoyed at being let go, the car (which had had electrical problems) caught fire, burning and destroying both itself and the shed that housed it.
"A Place to Call Home"
After the Second World War, the Ladysmith Fire Department built a new, two-storey fire hall on the site of the old fire station on Roberts Street. Through the war years, the Firemen relied on their "hose wagon", a '37 Ford that carried fire hoses and a portable pump. This vehicle is in storage, awaiting restoration.
1946 saw the arrival of a '42 International pumper truck, a former airport crash rescue vehicle purchased from the military base in Abbotsford. The truck cost the department $3,165.99, but was well worth the expense, as it served with honor until 1975. This truck is still used regularly in all Ladysmith parades.
In 1972, the Ladysmith Fire/Rescue Service held the Grand Opening of its current Fire Hall at 6th Avenue and Roberts Street. Able to house four pumpers, a command station, offices, training rooms and a meeting hall, this structure has served its community well for over forty years.