Somethin's burning

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October 27, 2016 12:00 AM

Fires were a recurring event for the Barr Colonists in the early days as they travelled west by wagon over the blackened prairie. 
For some, frantically ploughing a fireguard around their homestead aided in saving property but others were not so fortunate and lost everything.  In the town and village of Lloydminster, businesses typically built of wood fared no better.
Could you imagine fighting an out of control fire using buckets and pumping water from a well? 
Bucket brigades and hand pumps were the beginnings of Lloydminster’s fire department. 
Complicating matters, the provincial border in 1905 naturally created the necessity for two separate fire brigades, each outfitted with a hand drawn chemical cart. 
Started by a spark from a passing C.N.R. train engine igniting a pile of garbage lying by the fence, a serious fire occurred behind the Immigration Hall in May 1907. 
At the time, a strong Northeast wind placed the town in danger. 
A number of locals extinguished it.
Many thought that the eastern part of town might have been lost if the fire had occurred during the night.
By June, a petition circulated around town to employ a night watchman as a safeguard against fires, especially against those started by sparks from passing trains. 
This signed petition was presented to council in hopes of an immediate preventative action. 
A meeting was held to elect officers and to organize a fire brigade.
Bylaw No. 16 passed in July regulated the keeping of combustible materials in town preventing fires. 
It stated that no one should burn or set fire to any combustible material outside of a building within the Municipality limits. 
No combustible material including hay or straw could be placed or left within the municipality unless entirely enclosed in a building made of wood or other material.  This did not apply to loads of hay, straw, or fodder for sale in wagons accompanied by the seller and horses or oxen.
A proposed bylaw was brought forward for the authorization of the Municipality to issue debentures for $2,500. 
This was for the purchase of a fire-extinguishing engine and the erection of a building to house it. 
A vote was scheduled on July 31. 
The money would be paid back in twenty equal installments with an annual interest rate of six per cent. 
There were no outstanding debts except for the current year’s expenses. 
The town and village each purchased their first fire truck with an engine circa 1920s. 
For both the town and village, 1929 was a challenging year due to the effects of major fires. 
In two separate fires, the earlier loss of the Lloydminster Milling Company flour mill and an entire city block was devastating enough before the “Great” fire in August. 
Raging mercilessly for about 20 hours, this fire destroyed most of the downtown Saskatchewan side including over 50 buildings. 
Reportedly having started in a garbage can in the back of the pool hall, it burned out of control throughout the night. 
The siren was blasting as the midnight train arrived into town.
Damaged but left standing was the Royal Bank, which was constructed of brick. 
The remainder of the lost buildings were made of wood.
Fire brigades from the town and village bravely fought the blaze using two chemical engines, which were no match for the widespread inferno.
Business owners on the Alberta side soaked blankets with water and laid them over their stores. 
The supply of water was limited and sparks flew from the collapsing buildings across the street. 
When the flames and smoke cleared, damages totalled close to $1 million. 
Miraculously, there were no fatalities. 
Businesses continued their operations inside the surviving buildings.
Despite the loss of the Post Office, mail service continued without disruption. 
The town and village worked together to purchase a fire truck complete with a water tank and pump. 
A new town bylaw restricted buildings to be made fireproof.
Through the years, the town and village lost so much and yet at the same time, repeatedly worked together to resolve issues and move forward. 
Lloydminster’s history has proven time after time of how working together despite hardship, makes for a stronger community. 
Our steadfast pioneer spirit continues to this day.

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