Canadian Buffs Build Fire Prevention Show

Canadian Buffs Build Fire Prevention Show

There’s no United States monopoly on fire buffing. The International Fire Buff Associates, with 69 member clubs, includes one entire segment (Region 10) of fan groups from outside this country. Most of them are in Canada, where a unique province-wide organization—the Ontario Fire Buff Associates, or OFBA—was recently incorporated to coordinate fire buffing throughout Ontario.

Among the various Ontario clubs are the Box 43 Association of Hamilton, the Metro Toronto Multiple Alarm Association (MTMAA), the Border Cities Fire Buffs of Windsor, the Regional Niagara Fire Buffs Association in St. Catharines, and the Ottawa Fire Buffs. Still another Toronto group, the Box 12 Associates, began providing canteen service to city fire fighters in 1949.

Some of these clubs are putting forth tremendous efforts to assist metro and suburban fire services in their areas. For example, Fire Prevention Week is observed in Canada as it is in the States. This past October, in behalf of the Scarborough Fire Department, MTMAA members set up a highly successful exhibit seen by thousands of visitors at the Town Centre Mall in Scarborough (an eastern neighbor of Toronto).

Fire Prevention Week display

Reports OFBA Publications Chairman Walter M. P. McCall, “The display included no less than 14 cases crammed with photos, patches, models, equipment, etc. Two slide projectors clicked away continuously, and club members manned the exhibit throughout the week, answering countless questions from the public. Also on display was Scarborough’s canteen unit which is manned by the MTMAA. (The group put a second canteen in service Oct. 1, 1979, covering the Mississauga area west of Toronto—only a few weeks before its “baptism of fire” at the major rail disaster that forced evacuation of a quarter million people.)

McCall, a Windsor resident, was named “Fire Buff of the Year” at the International’s 1979 convention. As a member, officer, and newsletter editor for two Detroit buff clubs, besides his OFBA activity, Walt is unique as an international fire buff. He is the author of the definitive book “American Fire Engines Since 1900.”

By profession a news bureau manager for Chrysler of Canada, he is also one of several OFBA members contributing regularly to fire service publications on both sides of the border. Stories and photos by OFBA buffs have appeared in several issues of the magazine “Fire Fighting in Canada.” Others have been published in both Fire Engineering and Fire Command.

Old fire apparatus displayed

In Canada’s capital during Fire Prevention Week, Ottawa buff Roy Fokes put together a historical fire service exhibit in the St. Laurent Shopping Centre, using material from his extensive personal collection. The St. Laurent display was sponsored by the Cumberland and Nepean Fire Departments. Showings elsewhere followed, including one for the Ottawa Fire Department.

Fire apparatus—especially older types—is much in demand for show and parade use as a public relations tool. Ontario buffs are actively acquiring and preserving such equipment. The OFBA owns two rigs including a 1939 Bickle-Seagrave aerial. One of the principal activities of the Regional Niagara buffs is the “field meet”—an excursion to nearby cities in Ontario, New York and Pennsylvania to tour fire stations, inspecting and photographing apparatus.

Last June 16, the OFBA sponsored its first antique fire apparatus show and muster at Harbourfront, a popular tourist scene on downtown Toronto’s lakeshore. One of the old rigs taking part, coming from as far away as Buffalo, was a 1928 model. Another was a working steam pumper of even more advanced age. The event began with a “bell-clanging, siren-shrieking” downtown street parade, and was later highlighted by a surprise visit from the city’s fireboat. A similar gathering is planned for June 28 when Buffalo celebrates its fire department centennial.

Hamilton’s Box 43 (founded in 1950) owns a 1928 Ahrens-Fox pumper (and is now putting a new canteen into service, supported by funds from IAFF Local 288). Two members of both Box 43 and OFBA work for Dominion Foundries & Steel in Hamilton. Both men were the featured subjects of an illustrated article last summer in Dominion’s monthly employee newsletter.

That sort of publicity further bolsters community education about both buffing and fire fighting. Every little bit helps. With active groups like these, working together via the OFBA, Ontario fire buffs are furnishing an outstanding two-nation example of civilian support for the fire service.

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