An Introduction to Toronto
How the City Protects Itself Against Fire, and the Men Who Are Intrusted With the Task
TORONTO is the Indian word for friend. And even as this article is being written to acquaint the visitors with the local Fire Department, arrangements are being completed for a friendly and gracious reception to those who will visit Toronto to attend the annual convention of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
The city is located on the north side of Lake Ontario and covers an area of about forty-five square miles. It is the “Queen City of Canada,” stands out with its towering skyscrapers, great wharfs and industrial plants, and is home for 750,000 persons. Here each year is held the famous Toronto exposition.
As is the case with most departments, the present organization is the outgrowth of volunteers who formed a bucket brigade. The first permanent department was organized in 1855. with a force consisting of a Chief, two Assistant Chief lingineers, two engine companies of thirty-five men each, one of thirty men, a ladder company of thirty-five men and one hose company of thirtyfive men. In all there were 248 men, six manual engines, ten hose reels, 3,500 feet of hose, and two ladder trucks. Department expenses were then $17,000 a year, and the force protected a city of 40,000 persons against the spread of fire. The water supply was poor.
In 1876, the city covered nine square miles. The department had one Chief Engineer, a Superintendent of Fire Alarm Telegraph, fiftyseven men and drivers for four steamers, eleven hose wagons, three hook and ladder trucks, one salvage cart, nineteen horses, ninety fire alarm boxes and six fire stations.
Today, George Sinclair, the present Chief, is kept busy safeguarding an area of forty-five square miles, which does not include the various outside townships that often require assistance. The department now consists of one Chief, one Assistant Chief, two Platoon Chiefs, and thirteen District Chiefs, sixty Captains, sixty Lieutenants, nine Fire Inspectors, one Chief of Fire Alarm Telegraph, and one Department Surgeon. Resides about 155 officers, there are 630 firemen.
The equipment consists of twenty-two 1,000-gallon triple combination pumpers, nine hose trucks, nine ladder trucks, six aerial ladders, two high pressure companies, one salvage truck, one wrecking truck, an oil truck, various cars and trucks, one gasoline operated fireboat, one water tower for the island and an auxiliary steam tug. The department was entirely motorized in 1932.
Division of Fire Defenses
There are nine fire districts, with a Captain and a Lieutenant located in each station. Men work on the two-platoon system—one shift is from 8 a. m. to 6 p. m., and the other from 6 p. m. to 8 a. m. In the high value district the high pressure system is in operation at all times. The high pressure district is bounded on the south by the waterfront docks, east bv Jarvis Street, north by Queen Street, and west by Bathurst Street. In this area, pressure is maintained at 150 pounds and, upon direction of an officer, may be increased to 350 pounds.
Drill School and Headquarters
Headquarters and offices are located in the heart of the high value district. The fire alarm telegraph center is located in a fireproof building at the rear of department headquarters. There is also a 75-foot drill tower where the men receive regular weekly training under the direction of the two Platoon Chiefs.
A fireproof motor repair shop, just completed, is in District 4. Here all apparatus is repaired and overhauled. It has modern equipment to take care of all kinds of repairs. Each of the nine districts has its own tire inspector, who makes periodic inspections of all buildings. The detailed reports are kept on file at the Inspection Department. If a department complaint is not taken care of within a reasonable time, legal action is taken.
Fire service on the island is taken care of by one gasoline driven fireboat and two hand drawn hose carts and pumper. Ten firemen live on the island all year. During the winter, water is drained from the mains, and in case of fire, water has to be drawn from the lake. In case of a very large fire, the water works will pump water into the mains.
The island mentioned is located one mile south of the city in Lake Ontario. It has an area of about six square miles with plenty of heavy bush. There are four hundred houses and boat houses on the island. During the summer season, about 3,000 persons live there and the ferries have carried over as many as 15,000 persons in one day. During the winter there are about two hundred permanent residents, and they go across to the city twice each day on the city ice breaker, although some walk over the ice, or skate, or use ice boats. The filtration plant for the Toronto water system is located on the island.
When a fire alarm is turned in from the island, it is received at the fire alarm headquarters in the city. At the same time the siren on the island is blown, and from the coded blasts, one can tell the location of the fire. Additional fire equipment can be taken over from the main land in the police boat in a short time for the run is but five minutes.
About 4.000 alarms are received each year, and there are about seven second alarms.
The fire alarm is of the latest Gamewell type, costing over $500,000. The system consists of thirty-two circuits and over 950 boxes. There are special circuits to the island. Four men are employed by the fire alarm department on line work. There are also men for servicing buildings and eight operators. About sixty high pressure boxes are located in the high pressure district.
Radio is used to communicate with the Chief while he is in his car on the way to a fire. The messages are sent over the police radio. The department expects to place radio sets in the cars of all District Chiefs.
Water at good pressure is supplied by gravity and pumps. In the residential area the usual pressure is around seventy-five pounds, and in the high pressure area it is always at 150 pounds. There is no danger of a water shortage because of the location of the pumping stations and reservoirs. All hydrants are of the threeway type. Some in the domestic zone are of the two and four-way type. Todav the water system is valued at $30,000,000. and is being improved each year.
Toronto’s Worst Fire
The worst fire experienced by the city occurred April 19, 1904, when many blocks in the business district were destroyed, and the total loss was $12,000,000. The fire was discovered by a resident at 7:05 p. m., and a box pulled at King and Bay Streets. A general alarm was sounded, and additional help sent from Hamilton, Out., Niagara Falls, and Buffalo, N. Y., by special train. Many firemen were injured in fighting the conflagration,and Chief John Thompson broke a leg the first night of the fire. It was almost two weeks before the fire was entirely out.
Protection of the Exposition
Each year Chief Sinclair installs a triple combination pumper, manned by two men, at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds, located in the southwest section of the city. The fair grounds spread out over fortyfive acres. The exposition is housed in forty buildings of the permanent type. Two are of fireproof construction and the others are of the usual fair type. There is a grandstand with a stage over five hundred feet long. The canvas scenery measures five hundred by seventy-five feet. Each night there is a fireworks display.
Due to the excellent work of the inspectors and the personnel of the Fire Department, no serious fire has occurred during the exhibition. This is noteworthy, because during some davs of the exhibition there have been more than 200,000 persons and thousands of automobiles on the grounds.
Officers of the Department
Chief George Sinclair joined the department in 1895. He was stationed at 5 orkville Avenue Station, known as No. 10. In 1930, after a rapid rise, he was advanced to Chief of the Department, and succeeded Chief William Russell, who held that office for eleven years.
Assistant Chief Duncan McLain joined the department in 1895. He was District Chief in the junction distract for several years. In 1930, he was promoted to Assistant Chief.
Chief Gunn joined the service in 1891 and was District Chief for many years at Yorkville. In 1930, he was advanced to Platoon Chief.
Chief Fox joined in 1896 and was promoted to Platoon Chief in 1930.
Insurance rates were materially reduced several years ago, and today the city stands high in the low loss class.
All equipment has been thoroughly overhauled and modernized. Recently several sets of floodlights were installed.
Chief Sinclair and his assistants have devoted considerable thought to the comfort and the entertainment of the visiting Chiefs. There will be no dull moments during the convention.
The convention headquarters are located directly opposite the railway station and in the down town district. It is four minutes’ walk to the Fire Department Headquarters and about ten minutes’ walk from the good shopping district.
The local committee is prepared to prove that the Indians were correct in naming the “Queen City of Canada,” Toronto.