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The Crescent Beach Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department

The booklet CRESCENT BEACH / OCEAN PARK VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT was written by Derek Uren in 1992. The booklet is available in the Surrey Archives.

Crescent Beach VFD Crest
This is the original Crescent Beach VFD Crest designed by Chief Aubrey Stevens and given to all the fire fighters in a Christmas Card in 1954.

The early years: 1947–1962

The first residents of Crescent Beach waterfront had no fire protection nor did any of the subsequent settlers, until 1949. When fire broke out near the waterfront bucket brigades were the method of extinguishing them. Most often the brigades had a negligible amount of success. The source of water was Semiahmoo Bay.


In 1931 the Wood's Dance Hall, located across Beecher Street from where today's Beecher Place beach house is located, was destroyed by fire. There was still no fire department at this time and a bucket brigade was losing the battle to save the village. A call for help was sent to the New Westminster Fire Department.


The New Westminster Fire Department responded and upon arrival, less than one half hour later, saw a long bucket brigade from Semiahmoo Bay to the George Abernathy's home. The home was covered with wet blankets and mattresses to slow the flames and prevent the total loss of the village's remaining homes. The New Westminster Fire Fighters, who could see the flames long before their arrival, saved the remainder of the village.


Even this major conflagration with its disastrous results did not result in the creation of a fire department. People were in the third year of the Great Depression and resources were not available to develop a fire department.


The following article was written in the spring of 1964, by Norm Smith.

In the year 1947 the Crescent Beach Ratepayers' Association, headed by the late L. Adams, decided to form a volunteer fire department. The village of Crescent Beach was no stranger to the depredation of fire. All the old timers agree that the most spectacular was the Wood's Dance Hall fire of 1931. The dance hall stood at the end of Beecher Street on the side where Dennis Sagris later operated the fish and chip restaurant. The fire was said to have started when an oil stove exploded. This fire threatened to devastate the entire village. Several homes had already been destroyed when the call for help was put into the New Westminster Fire Department, and at the same time consideration was given to dynamiting some homes in the path of the fire in an attempt to gain control. The advice from the New Westminster Fire Department was to hold all plans of dynamiting in abeyance until the fire truck arrived. The fire truck was immediately dispatched and at the wheel was one Basil Nixon, later to become the British Columbia Fire Marshall. This must have been the wildest ride in history for a fire crew. Mr. Nixon related that after he crossed the Fraser River by way of the old bridge he got the truck into high gear and made it to Crescent Beach in nine minutes. This feat would seem impossible and in fact Mr. Nixon related to me years later that the journey from the New Westminster Fire Hall to the Crescent fire took twenty minutes. This is still incredible when one considers that in those days there was no King George Highway and therefore the truck had to transmit the Hjorth Road, Johnston Road, and the Mud Bay route. When the truck reached the Serpentine Bridge on the Johnston Road the driver noticed too late that the bridge deck was several inches higher than the road. When the truck hit the bridge deck it took off into the air and fortunately landed on all four wheels with a reverberating crash that just failed to sprinter the old wooden bridge. When the truck reached Crescent Beach the driver saw a long bucket brigade from the Bay to the Abernathy's house which had wet mattresses and blankets hanging all over it to delay the spread of the fire. Firemen credit this delaying action with saving the rest of Crescent from destruction. The fire was then struck out. Attempts were made at this time to form a fire department but the depression was at its worst and there was no money.

In 1947, Crescent Beach Ratepayers, led by Mr. L. Adams decided to establish a fire department. That year Crescent Beach obtained its first fire truck, the fire department was every able bodied person who was available at the time of an emergency. The first order of business was to build a fire hall. This project continued until 1949. At that same time Douglas Greggor was appointed Fire Chief.


Acquiring Equipment

When world war two was over there became available through the war assets organization a great variety of war surplus fire righting equipment. This equipment was mostly designed for use on military air fields, but the price was right and the fire protection in Crescent Beach at that time was non-existent, and it was decided that it would suffice for the time being. The legal formalities, including a bylaw, were quickly arranged and the money by-law was supported by a majority of the ratepayers. A war surplus RCAF crash truck was purchased along with a minimum amount of hose and equipment.

RCAF Crash Truck

The RCAF Crash Truck was a giant step forward, but by modem standards it had glaring deficiencies. It was designed for use on an airport tarmac to extinguish airplane fires. It carried three hundred gallons of water and two gigantic Co2 cylinders which where used for residential fires. The truck rolled on independently driven tandem wheels, six in all without a rear differential and was extremely difficult to turn corners. The front drive assembly was eventually unhooked to facilitate turning. The top speed of this truck was 30 mph down hill with a strong tail wind. With all its shortcomings the truck paid for itself in reduced fire loss in a short time.


Limited Communications

The fire department as organized in 1947 was under the leadership of Doug Greggor, the first fire chief. This was a completely amateur effort as none of the community minded citizens who joined the fire department had any training. They were severely handicapped by the lack of communication equipment and the horse and buggy telephone system in those days left much to be desired.


The emergency telephone number consisted of actually three different sets of numbers. The idea being that if you rang a number and got no answer, you rang the second number, all this while your house might have been on fire.

The first Crescent Beach Fire Hall

The first Crescent Beach Fire Hall was located on the seaward border of Heron Park, next to the present parking lot. The wall of the Hall is the current grass line of the park.


The first fire hall was built in 1947 in Crescent Beach at 12318 Beecher Street. The building, built by volunteer labour with mostly donated material was a very basic type structure. In 1948-49, living quarters were added to the back of the building to accommodate a live-in caretaker. The quarters were very crude by today's standards. The first caretaker was Mr. A. Mitchell. In 1954 Mr. Mitchell was replaced by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Hardman.


Early Volunteers and equipment

Although the fire hall was built over a two-year period, there were no formal fire department members; the first able-bodied persons arriving at the hall were the fire department. There was no training or guidance as this was a fire department in name only. This situation continued under the directions of Chiefs A. Goddyn during 1948 and Bill Gardiner through 1949–50.


The Brown Fire

On a frosty, clear, starry night in November 1951, in the village of Crescent Beach, a fire broke out in the home of Derek Brown. The fire quickly involved the entire house, and his wife and two children perished. Mr. Brown was badly burned in a vain rescue attempt. The fire department, with the limited facilities available, was helpless in the face of the ferocious onslaught of the fire. Two houses burned to the ground that night. The community of Crescent Beach, indeed the entire Municipality of Surrey were shocked beyond belief by the tragedy.


The fire fighting capabilities of the local fire department, and the entire municipality were quickly re-examined in the light of this event, and the population at large was for the time being jolted out of its apathy.


Collin McFadyen 1951–1953

After the tragic "Brown Fire" volunteer Collin McFadyen was appointed chief and immediately formed the fire brigade into a truly organized volunteer fire department. He began by setting up the first comprehensive training scheme. An entire new group of men was recruited with little regard to their age. It was recalled that in those days only a few volunteers were old enough to vote. Each member was trained to respond as a one-man operation. He was expected to be able to drive the truck, engage the pump, run out the hose, and fight the fire. In theory one man could handle the situation alone, but if more firemen arrived to help so much the better. The organization up to this time was a citizen fire department rather than a true volunteer fire department. Everyone in the town felt justified in handling the equipment in an emergency if they happened to be in the right place at the right time. The volunteer department eventually developed into a working unit. Collin McFadyen recruited and trained volunteer fire fighters until 1953.


There was a preponderance of sixteen year olds and what they lacked in age; they more than made up for it in energy and enthusiasm. Mr. McFadyen contacted the BC Fire Marshall's office and arranged to have their training officers come out and instruct the new volunteers. Night after night the mackinaw clad figure of Chief McFadyen stood looking on as recruits advanced hose to imaginary fires, re-decked hose, rolled hose, raised ladders, tied knots, practiced artificial resuscitation, and poured water on non-existent fires.

Chief Collin McFadyen

Chief McFadyen was a dedicated man with a compassion for every volunteer fireman and an arrogant disdain for anyone who stood in the way of progress in the field of fire protection. He begged, borrowed, and bought, new fire equipment. He castigated the ratepayers, he scorned officialdom, and he loved his men. He had limited financial revenue, and sadly enough, he had to move out of the district in order to find employment.


McFadyen was followed by Aubrey Stevens as Fire Chief. The Crescent Beach Volunteer Fire Department continued with the training which brought the volunteers respectability.


To further confirm the age of the firemen a quote from the minutes of the ladies auxiliary of October 1, 1953 states:

A general consent of the meeting, for the men and boys at the Wednesday night fire practice be only served one thing, either sandwiches, cake, donuts, or cookies, and only one lady handle it instead of two.

Financing the Fire Department

The financing of the department came from the taxes collected only from within its fire protection area. These expenditures were under the control of a fire committee drawn from the three local ratepayers' associations. Unfortunately there was a great deal of animosity between the Crescent Beach Ratepayers' Association, the Crescent Heights Ratepayers' Association and the Ocean Park Ratepayers' Association and Chief McFadyen was caught in the middle. Animosity grew even to the point where the firemen had to get approval from the committee before they could go to the service station to fuel up the truck.


Either out of frustration or employment commitments Chief McFadyen resigned. In support of their chief the rest of the department resigned as well. Surrey Fire Marshal, Ray Feather, was informed. He was also told that, although the department had resigned, that if there was a fire there was some trained volunteers around that would help out.


During this period the municipality was divided into wards with a councilor elected from each. Mr. Millar, the councilor for Crescent Beach/Ocean Park, called a meeting with the firemen to hear their grievances, after which he called a meeting with the Surrey Council fire committee, the ratepayers' fire committee, and the firemen. The Surrey fire committee, made up of Reeve Bob Nesbitt, councilors Lloyd H. Atkinson and A. E. Pitman, decided that a new fire committee be formed, made up of the fire chief as chairman, two firemen, and the presidents of the Crescent Beach and the Hilltop Ratepayers' Associations. All members must be ratepayers, no proxies allowed. Also the department could elect their own chief without any outside interference. Chief McFadyen had accepted a job out of the area and moved away. Aubrey Stevens was then elected chief.


Aubrey Stevens 1954–1962

Aubrey Stevens

When Aubrey Stevens took over as chief following Collin McFadyen's departure from the area the department with its fire hall and one truck was very basic, even a crude organization by today's standards. However, during his tenure a new Fire Hall was built on Stevenson Road (128th Street) and a new fire truck was acquired.


Aubrey's contribution to the department can best be described by the entry in the department log book for May 6, 1964 two days after his death. It reads:

We come to the end of an era and the first chapter in the history of this department has been closed. Stevens was with the department when it was formed and he more than any other was responsible for the organization that we have today: the man whose resourcefulness and imagination was responsible for the building of this hall; inspired the purchase of our first modern fire vehicle, driving it from Ontario; the man we served with as Fire Chief for eight years has left us and tragically and has answered his last call. Aubrey Leonard Stevens, Fire Chief, was born in 1910 and died on May 4th 1964.

A new truck and a new hall

Not long after Stevens became chief, the subject of a new truck and a new hall was discussed. Thus an extensive project had its beginning. A money by-law was drafted for twenty–five thousand dollars (25,000) for a new truck, and the building of a new hall at a new location. The by–law passed.


The truck decided on was a Bickle Seagrave on a 1955 Ford chassis, a five hundred gallon tank, two pumps, one high pressure equipped with hose reels, and one five hundred gallon per minute volume unit. Chief Stevens went east to pick up the truck and drive it back to Crescent Beach.

Small tanker truck

In 1955 when the department gained this second truck, the hall had to be altered. This was done by cutting a second door into the building. With both trucks inside there was very little room for anything else, but this problem was made bearable by the fact that a new hall was to be built in the near future.


The fire department was always hampered by the lack of water. There were a few fire stand pipes in the village but the entire area on the top of the hill and all of Ocean Park was dependent on one lone stand pipe at the water tower at the top of Crescent hill. The truck carried three hundred gallons of water to the fire and if this was not sufficient the truck had to disengage from the fire and return to a stand pipe to fill up.


The fire insurance underwriters were asked to do a survey for a new location for the fire hall. As growth would occur from Crescent Heights to Ocean Park, a location above the railway tracks was preferable to a location at the beach. As luck would have it the municipality owned land, now Crescent Park, and a corner of which fitted these requirements. The land was ear-marked for park and the parks' administrator, Mr. Bob Nicholson, agreed to the building of the fire hall provided that the new building fitted in with the surroundings.

Hall 12 Crescent

The volunteers committed themselves to a huge undertaking when they decided to build their own hall. For four years, under the leadership of Chief Stevens, the firemen begged and borrowed materials, drove nails and mixed concrete with small mixers in order to complete their project. The finished Hall was opened by Reeve Bob Nesbitt November 1st 1958.


The assessed value of the hall at that time was set at fifty thousand dollars (50,000); the actual cost was ten thousand, one hundred, and thirty dollars ($10,130). The only work paid for on the hall was the roof, (in order to get a twenty-year bond), the siding, (due to the mitering of the corners), and the painting of the living quarters. The painting was done by a local contractor at a greatly reduced rate. The hall is a lasting monument to the dedication and drive of Chief Stevens who spent many long hours in its construction.


Over the years, with the growth of the community, the advancement in construction methods, and the introduction of synthetic materials, the fire department has had to upgrade its construction standards. This was done not only in the name of efficiency, but the safety of its personnel as well.

Crescent Senior Centre

During the years 1947 to 1949 the citizens of Crescent Beach pitched in and built a small fire hall using mostly materials mat had been donated. With the opening of the new hall on 128th Street the old Crescent fire hall was converted to a senior citizens' hall and was used regularly. This hall stood for many years.


Norman Smith 1963–1981

Norm Smith

During his tenure as chief, Norm Smith guided the Fire Department into the modern age. The Fire Department was now as a consolidated municipal-wide department, and Hall 12 was often viewed as one of the leading and most innovative units in the department.


Procedures and performance standards were upgraded, and the communication system was greatly improved.


Chief Smith lead by example, and the period of consolidation, continued to serve the specific needs of the local residents, as well as the overall ambitions of the Surrey Fire Department.


Volunteer Training

Training could no longer be strictly "in house", so on February 1st, 1966 a Surrey Fire Department Training Officer was appointed. The first man chosen for the job was Al Cleaver, later he was appointed fire chief. The training officer attended every other week to give this added instruction. Through the years many training officers have been appointed. At one time, because of the time involved to attend hall thirteen, the training officers were rotated. Because of the lack of continuity this method created, it was discontinued. Later, one training officer did the job, but he only looked after the six volunteer halls. This system seemed to work very well. Over the years the number of "first aid" related calls increased to a point where a great deal of training time had to be spent on advanced first aid and paramedic training. The Hall has its own certified CPR instructors, as well as a large number of members who either hold or have held industrial first aid tickets.


Surrey Fire Departments amalgamated

With the change to the Municipal Act in 1958, all the individual fire departments in Surrey were amalgamated into one unit and Crescent Beach/Ocean Park became Surrey Fire Hall 12.


In the early years of the department, firemen were alerted by means of a siren mounted on the hall. This system worked well provided the men were close enough to hear it. In order to increase efficiency a phone network was set up by the firemen's wives to call the firemen that lived outside the range of the siren. This network stayed in effect until the advent of alerters, and later belt pagers, made it obsolete.


This picture of the Crescent Beach/Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department, Surrey Fire Hall 12 was taken about 1963. The volunteers are:


Increased Community Support

Over the years the fire department has received a great deal of support from groups and individuals within the community. This involved instruction in the way the equipment was used at an emergency, the use of training aids, as well as the equipment for the Hall to make it a little more comfortable for the firemen. The Hall had received old articles for our display case. Although this list is not complete it includes: firstly the Ladies Auxiliary which has supplied among other things; the first inhalator tables, chairs, dishes, coffee urns, movie screen, and it helped to pay for the CPR training dolls. The ladies also supplied the much appreciated refreshments for both the practice nights and the long hot-cold fires. From the Crescent Legion and its Auxiliary the Hall received an oxygen unit and help in paying for the CPR dolls. From the Kiwanis Club and Kiwanis village the Hall acquired CPR dolls, and an overhead projector. The Ocean Park Golden Age Arts and Crafts Group donated tables. In the display case is an 1875 call box complete with the punch tape machine which gives the location of the call. his machine was restored and donated to the hall by Phil Brown. To these people and groups, as well as the ones too numerous to mention, the fire department can only say Thank You for your support.


Volunteer Fire Departments' support of the Community


The fire department, has over the years, supported other worth while projects, some of which include the muscular dystrophy drive, the burn drive, local May Days, and parades. At one time the department sponsored a field hockey team when no other sponsor could be round.

hose reel Parade hose reel

Participation in local parades, the Ocean Park/Crescent Beach May Day, the White Rock Sea Festival or any other always drew a group of volunteers willing to pull the hose reel or drive the old fire truck.


In the picture on the left, Bob Haining, Dave Bridge, and Don Pickerill are pulling the hose reel as part of a local parade. On the right, Brett Theil, Dave Bridge, Mayor Ed McKitka, Don Pickerill, and Ron Schlase enjoy the fun of participation.

Fund raising

Fund raising for local and regional charities was always part of the volunteers role. In this picture Derek Uren, Peter Allanson, and Frank Giasson are collecting for Muscular Dystrophy in front of the Ocean Park Safeway c1980.

rescue boat

With the growing popularity of boating, a rescue boat was a much needed item. Here are four volunteers, Roy Flannagan, Jack L. Berringer, Jack C. Berringer, and Derek Uren. This picture is taken in front of the new hall on 128th Street in the early 1960s.


The Ladies Auxiliary to the Crescent Beach Volunteer Fire Department


The first meeting of the ladies auxiliary was held on September 2nd, 1947 at the home of Alice M Copp. The fifteen founding members were; Alice M Copp, Veiga Dawe, Shrilaoh Barrington-Foote, Susan A Adams, Elsie M Yorke, Doris Currie, Gertrude Curry, Joan M Williams, Margret Weatherburn, Emmie Rawden, Ada Goddyn, BM Sandbrook, L Lindsay, R Greggor, M Curry. There were also 54 associate members. The executive elected at that meeting were; President, A Copp; Vice–President, V Dawe; Secretary–Treasurer, S Foote; and Historian, L Adams.


The purpose of the auxiliary was to help in the funding of the furnishings for the fire hall. This included tables, chairs, dishes, etc., and to help the firemen in any manner possible. During 1948 the auxiliary purchased fire coats and boots for the firemen. In 1949–1950 the auxiliary also helped to construct, and furnish the living quarters at the rear of the fire hall.


At their meeting of June 12, 1950, Mrs. Dawe made the motion that the auxiliary purchase an inhalator for the fire department. On Jury 26, 1952, an E&J inhalator, aspirator, and resuscitator was purchased for six hundred and forty seven dollars ($647.00). This unit was to be kept at the drug store.


During these years there was some dissention between the auxiliary and the governing body of the fire department. This problem came to a head at the auxiliary meeting of August 28, 1952. The auxiliary took back the dishes, tables, and chairs, placed their funds in bonds in a safety deposit box and dissolved the unit. On January 14, 1953, after tempers and emotions had cooled down, another meeting was called and it was resolved to ignore the last meeting. All furnishings etc, taken by the auxiliary were returned to the fire hall.


During this period Chief McFadyen was in a reconstruction program for the fire department. In doing so, he actively recruited teen age boys. To further this cause he tried to interest teen age girls in the auxiliary, and ask them make coffee and sandwiches for the firemen on their practice nights. The mothers of these girls did not think much of this idea and decided to supply the requested refreshments themselves.


Through out the year of 1958 the ladies were kept busy raising monies for the little extras for the new fire hall on 128th Street. The auxiliary was also very active in the grand opening of the hall and the banquet which followed.

The Ladies Auxiliary

The Ladies Auxiliary played a significant role in furnishing the Fire Hall and supporting the men at practices and on long hot-cold fires. Here the ladies are enjoying a social gathering, which was an important part of being an auxiliary member.


At the meeting on June 2, 1960 the auxiliary officially changed its name to The Ladies' Auxiliary to the Crescent Beach Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department. Over the next four years the auxiliary continued to support the fire department by, among other things: purchasing a coffee urn; moccasins; to protect the newly laid floor upstairs in the fire hall; and helping to pay for the firemen's jackets.


At the meeting of November 4, 1964, the auxiliary voted to disband. Although most of the ladies had been in the auxiliary for a number of years, and were starting to become tired of the work involved, a small number of the younger ladies decided to restart the auxiliary. How long a time elapsed between the November meeting and the restarting date is unclear, but it has been in operation ever since.


There is no doubt that the ladies' auxiliary have contributed a great deal to the fire department, and in turn, to the community during their many years of operation, but nobody appreciates them more than the firemen themselves. A special thanks to the auxiliary is given when they supply the much appreciated refreshments for both the practice nights and the long hot-cold fires.

Putting out a grease fire

Carolyn Haining, a member of the Ladies' Auxiliary is getting instruction from Don Pickerill in putting out a grease fire. Proper technique in the use of a extinguisher was stressed.


Social Aspects of Volunteering

The fire department has tried to have a fairly active social calendar which includes; a pot luck dinner in the late fall and early spring, a kids' picnic in the summer, a bar–B–Q in the late summer, a childrens' Christmas party complete with Santa Claus and gifts, and a year–end dinner in December, usually prepared in the hall by the firemen. Also, through out the year, a number of impromptu gatherings are held; e.g. fun nights, super bowl parties etc. The ladies' auxiliary and their families are included in all these gatherings.


The reasons for these events are three fold: first, for the fun and enjoyment of the participants at each and every gathering. Secondly, to try and help appease the wives who may be left to explain to guests the sudden unexpected reason why the man of the house jumps up from a special dinner and rushes out the door without a word. Thirdly, when a person volunteers to join the fire department they become part of a team. Only this team is not concerned with a trophy, but lives, most often our own. As a member of this group you must, out of necessity, have complete confidence and trust in the people you are working with, and they in you. In order to have this trust you must know each other, know how they think, and how they react. The more the firemen are together in a relaxed atmosphere the more knowledge is gained about each other. It is perhaps in this third reason for holding these events the most important benefit from them is gained.


Sometimes at these gatherings things happen that only time will bring out the humorous side. A case in point was the evening of a fun night, and a Chinese food dinner. One of the firemen was also an executive of the legion across the street. After he left the fire hall for a short while to attend to some legion business the food was ordered, delivered, eaten, and all the dishes cleaned up, the games resumed. The legion executive then returned and carried on. About a half an hour later he made the remark that he was getting hungry and should we not be ordering the food. Needless to say it was met with a complete embarrassed silence.


Fire Hall Accommodations

In 1960 the caretakers, Mr and Mrs Tom Hardman, left the fire hall and were replaced by a younger couple, Mr and Mrs Martin VanVeen with their children. To accommodate the family two small rooms were added to the back of the fire hall under the landing for the upstairs meeting room.


With the advent of better communications and a universal radio dispatch system, capable of activating the siren by remote control, caretakers were no longer required. The VanVeens left the hall in 1970. Later the dividing wall between the two small rooms was removed to make one storage room, now called Annie's room because the CJML Resuscitator Annie practice dolls are used there.


Over the years there have been a number of comparatively minor alterations to the hall. In 1966 cupboards and a bar were built upstairs by Len Randell, one of the firemen. In 1976 the floor of the entrance hall and radio room was replaced with new tile, as well as the door to the upstairs was moved from the bottom of the steps to the top to comply with the building code. Frank Glasson, a fireman as well, took on an extensive redecorating job on the upstairs in 1979, in which he relocated the sink, added new cupboards, and replaced the sheeting on the walls and ceiling.


In January of 1985 a major alteration was made to the fire hall by the Surrey Fire Department. These alterations included the replacing of the old hose tower with a new one, which also serves as a training tower, and the addition of a washroom upstairs. The biggest change however was to the truck bays. The back wall was extended, a work room was added, and the roof was raised, as well as installing higher doors. This was done to facilitate the introduction of larger equipment. It is interesting to note that the cost of these alterations was approximately thirteen times the original cost of the hall. During the time of this writing (c1992) new cabinets are being installed in the downstair's kitchen.


One change that didn't happen was on September 30, 1975 when upon returning to the hall, from a call we found a municipal crew busy painting the outside of the building a yellow colour which some official decided all municipal buildings should be. After some discussion with the Fire Chief and building maintenance it was determined that it would be cheaper to leave the colour as is than to recruit and train a whole new crew of fire fighters, for if the painting went ahead all the men would resign.


Pictures from inside the Hall

Equipment at ready Trucks in the Bay

Pictures courtesy of Mark Clark

Front of a Fire Truck Inside Office

Pictures courtesy of Mark Clark

Hall 12 1968

These are the members of the Ocean Park Crescent Beach Fire Hall in 1998.


Robert (Bob) Haining 1982–1991

Chief Bob Haining

Chief Haining had the task of leading the department out of the so called smoke-eater days, into the era of personal safety awareness.


By the 1980s the equipment used was so good that you no longer needed to rely on your senses to really tell how very hot it was in a burning building. The department must have a knowledge of HAZMAT (hazardous material) symbols and placards, WHMIS (workplace hazardous information system) and all its ramifications. With the advent of the 911 emergency telephone system the department entered the computer age and the CAD system. The fire halls in Surrey have been equipped with fax machines, and preparations are now being made to install computer terminals in all the halls. With the of all these high tech machines Chief Haining has had to adapt to a great deal more paper work with reports to fill out, yet still maintain the high standards of his predecessors.

Fire and rescue vehicles

Over the years the quality and number of fire and rescue vehicles improved. Here three of the Hall's trucks are shown in front of the Hall.


Becoming a Permanent Full–time Paid Fire Hall


Crescent Beach Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Service officially came to an end on March 15th, 2003 when Hall 12 became a permanent full time location. The volunteers had served from 1947 to 2003 or 56 years. Some members had served for only a short period while others like the author of this History of the Crescent Beach/Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department, Derek Uren, was an active volunteer for 42 years.


The following roster shows those who made the commitment to serve their community.

CVF Crest


This Roster information was compiled by Derek Uren, the longest serving member (1952-1994) of the
The Roster was updated from 1992–2002 by Bob Haining

The Roster of the
Crescent Beach/Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department 1947–1960



The Roster of the Crescent Beach/Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department


The Roster of
the Crescent Beach/Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department



A Summation of Typical Fire Calls

Over the years that the Fire Department has been in existence it has responded to a great variety of calls, some humorous, some dangerous, some routine, but all serious to the people who needed its help. The following is a short summary of a few of those calls.

The Crescent Beach Hotel Fire – January 1949

This fire had a great impact on the relatively new Crescent Beach/Ocean Park Fire Department.


The following information was recalled by Felix Cousineau, who helped to fight the fire. The next day at the request of Collin McFadyen he joined the fire department.

The fire broke out in the Crescent Beach Hotel late at night while the caretaker was away visiting. Felix was coming home about 12:30 am from working the grave yard shift when he saw the fire from the top of the Woodward's Hill. Thinking the fire might be his own home he wasted no time in getting there. When he arrived home his family was already up and outside in case the fire spread their way. Luckily the wind that night was blowing straight out to sea. White Rock's fire truck was already on the scene, sitting in the ocean drafting sea water. When the truck was driven out onto the beach, it hit an old piling, putting a hole in its oil pan. It continued to pump until the motor seized.
At the height of the blaze the White Rock truck was protecting Dennis Sagres' fish and chip shop, and the Crescent truck was pumping water on the Estwing house. These activities were credited with stopping the spread of the fire. Dennis Scott, the son of the owner of the service station at the corner of Stevenson Road (128 St) and Crescent Road, was manning the hose from the Crescent truck and Bin Gardiner, the chief at that time, was operating the pump.
The next morning, with the White Rock truck literally dead in the water, the tide had come up to almost cover the seat. The Crescent truck,, which had six-wheel drive, hooked on to it and pulled it out.
Though the hotel was a total toss there was no loss of life or injuries.

Cat Rescue

Of course no Fire Department is without a call from a frantic pet owner, with a cat up a tree that they believe can not get down. In this case the Chief responded by climbing up a forty foot ladder and grabbing the cat. Unfortunately the cat did not want to be rescued and proceeded to sink it's claws into his hand. Where upon the cat was then thrown, unceremoniously, to the ground, where it landed on its feet, unhurt, and ran for home. The Chief then had his lacerated hand attended to. On August 16th 1962 another cat was out on a limb needing to be rescued, when a good Samaritan climbed forty foot up he found he could not climb down again. The Fire Department came to his assistance. The cat came down on its own.


False Alarms

Before the advent of radio activated sirens on the fire halls the sirens where sounded by the pushing of a button outside the building by anyone who needed help. One problem with this system was the temptation it offered to anyone who thought it was fun to turn in false alarms. One such teenager was not quite fast enough and was caught. The judge he appeared before, in my opinion was a very wise man, sentenced him to six months of Wednesday night fire practices. On the completion of his sentence he was invited to join the Department. He declined the offer.


Storage Shed Fire

Fire near Ocean Park Cafe

On June 4th 1960 fire broke out in the storage shed adjacent to the Ocean Park Cafe at 16th avenue and 128th street. This is the current location of the Bank of Montreal and Ocean Park Dental. When the fire department arrived the shed was completely involved and threatening to spread to the diner. The solution was to hook the tanker to the shed and drag it into the clear, then put the fire out, thus preventing its spreading. In this picture Aubrey Stevens, the fire chief, on the day after the fire, is looking over the remnants of the charred storage shed.

Picture courtesy of Surrey Archives and Ed Fader


Controlled Demolishion c1960s

Contolled Demolishion

A derelict Service Station stood at the north-east corner of 128th and Crescent Road. A planned demolishion took place and the local fire department stood by to ensure that the fire did not get out of control.


Fire at Chief's House – April 21, 1961

The Chief called a surprise practice at his own house on how to extinguish a chimney fire. At least that's what he claimed.


Saving Home Contents – March 11, 1963

The need to prevent water damage at fire scenes was illustrated at a fire on Ocean Park Road. When a fire was discovered in the attic, a small rug was moved out of the hall to a safe place to avoid the dripping water. We later were thanked by the owners for this action, the value of the rug was in excess of ten thousand dollars.


Calling the Wrong Department – April 6, 1963

Sometimes you just can't win. The Fire Department was severely criticized by the owners of a barn, which was a total loss to fire, for its delay in arriving. The problem started by the owners believing because they lived near White Rock they should call the White Rock Fire Department. Secondly they did not bother to open any of the gates which gave us access to the building.


Illegal Activities – June 1, 1963

The Department responded to a house fire. The cause, a moonshine operation in the kitchen.


Mud Slide – December 24, 1963

A mud slide at 13045 Crescent Road took the life, and demolished the home of Mr. Berry. This was Albert Berry, Lawrence Berry's father and a pioneer of the area. He was living in a fishing shack on the river. The Fish and Game club was looking for a site for a range but it proved too difficult to get to. Access to the area in question was by a path over the bluff down to the riverside. Stumps were wired with cables to keep them stable. It looked too dangerous for everyday use.


Arson – October 17, 1963

Pop Taylor╠Ás house in Crescent Beach was blown completely apart by an arsonist Mr. Taylor had moved out a few days before the incidence.


Spreading Fires – March 26, 1964

Smith Fire

Fire broke out in the basement garage of the Smith family on the beach in Crescent. The picture was taken by Mrs. Helen Murphy. The fire that started in the Smith house at the Point and it destroyed two other houses.

Crescent Beach circa 1920

This picture shows the Harry Reifel home in Crescent in the early 1920s. The picture came from a postcard that shows auto access to the beach in Crescent. The Reifel home burned down at the same time as the Smith's home.


School Fire – July 16, 1967

The Tanker truck was sent to assist at a fire in the Queen Elizabeth High School in the 9400 block King George Highway. The Science wing and the 1940 academic wing were destroyed.


Bush Fire? – March 2, 1969

The department responded to a call for a bush fire at 141st street and 24th avenue, when they arrived they found a fully involved house fire.


Loose Snakes – December 18, 1970

The department responded to a fully involved house fire in Crescent Beach. When the crew gained entry they found the fire had broken a large number of snake cages but not destroyed the snakes. They where crawling all over the place, trying to flee the fire. Some of the snakes were poisonous. Behind a mattress, which was standing on edge in a completely gutted bedroom a fire fighter found a very frightened, but unharmed dog. It has never been determined who jumped the highest when the mattress was moved.


Lightening Strike – August 1, 1971

A fire fighter's house was struck by lightning.


Wasp Nest Responsible – Jury 16th 1973

The Department responded to a possible house fire because of a noise inside the wall. The cause? A wasp nest.


Self Extinguishing a Fire – July 27, 1973

A home owner was overcome by smoke after fire broke out. The fire was put out when the fire burned through a plastic water line.


Boat Fire – August 25, 1973

A boat blew up at the Crescent Marina when a new boat owner pumped sixty plus gallons of gasoline into the bilge and then tried to start it. The resulting explosion sent four people to hospital.


Fire Delivered – June 8, 1973

The fire was delivered to the Fire Hall. A fire broke out in the back of a garbage truck. Before it was extinguished the load had to be dumped in a vacant lot.


Dolls – August 15, 1974

While fighting a house fire on Marine Drive the fire fighter's were hampered in their search of the house by the finding of a number of large dolls.


House Collapse – May 26, 1975

Two men where lucky to escape serious injury when a house they were working underneath fell on them. They both were between the joists at that moment.


Unwanted Help – September 6, 1975

A house fire was complicated when a helpful bystander unexpectedly charged a hydrant line before it was clamped off.


Candles in Bed – September 30, 1975

A house fire on 20th avenue was started when a young boy was told to put a book away and turn off his light, instead he used a candle under the bed covers.


Tow–truck Needed – January 23, 1976

The fire lighters were roused from their sleep at five after three in the morning when a motorist activated the siren to call a tow truck for his stalled car.


Electrical Short – March 6, 1976

A fire fighter ended up in hospital from a house fire on 140 St when he tried to put out a spark by clapping it between his hands, the spark was caused by an electrical short.


Babies Inside – April 19, 1976

At a house fire on 14A Ave the responding crew was confronted with a situation they fear the most. A woman was standing at the front door of a house, where the living room was fully involved. She was hysterically screaming that her two babies were still inside. The subsequent search found nothing. It turned out that her two babies where seventeen and nineteen years old, and it was not even her house.


Fire Truck Accident – January 21, 1977

Our tanker was involved in an accident in front of the fire hall when an on–coming car stopped for the pumper then proceeded to run into the second responding truck.


School Fire – September 20, 1977

Our pumper was the main supply truck at a fire at the White Rock Junior High School where it pumped at full capacity for four and one half hours. We also supplied eighteen fire fighters.


Plane Crash – July 18, 1978

Responded to a plane crash where two people died.


Smoke Detectors – November 11, 1978

A house fire on Gilley Street in Crescent Beach was a graphic example of the value of smoke detectors. Two people owe their lives to theirs.


Thawing Water Pipes – December 28, 1978

This was the first of three fires with three different owners to the same house. All the fires where started the same way in the same place, thawing frozen water pipes.


Hot Fireplace Ashes– January 8, 1979

This fire was started the same way as a lot of them. The home owner placed a cardboard box on his deck containing the ash from his fire place.


Wrong Type of Fire Place – November 28, 1979

A house fire on Crescent Road was caused when the owner removed the piping from a gas-fired fire place, and lit a wood fire in it. The fire place had no chimney, only a vent.


Car Fire – March 10, 1980

A motor vehicle ran into a power pole on Marine Drive and caught fire. The danger was increased by the electrical arc which flashed down the heavy smoke.


Mud Slide – January 23, 1982

A mud slide on Bayview Street wiped out a house, the people inside narrowly escaped injury.


On January 2, 1983 a fire consumed an old chicken house.

Fire consumed an old chicken house Fire Practice

The owners were attempting to demolish this old chicken shed by burning it. The fire was well out of control and the owner was very excited when the crew arrived. They had it extinguished within 10 minutes of their arrival.


Hang Glider Rescue – February 1, 1985

The Department was called to rescue a hang glider that crashed forty feet up in a tree breaking both of the pilot's wrists.


Undetected House Fire – December 18, 1985

A house fire on 24th Avenue got a good hold when it went undetected for an unusually long time because of heavy fog.


Car Fire Spreads – August 29, 1986

A fire was started in two cars which spread to the house on Crescent Road. This was the first use of the blitz line.


The theory behind fire fighting is the fire triangle, it takes oxygen, fuel and heat to produce a fire, take one of them away and the fire goes out. With the blitz line, there was suppose to be enough cooling effect from such a large volume of water being put on the fire. Traditionally when we fought a fire we used an 1 1/2" hose that gave us about 100/125 gallons per minute. Believe it or not, if we had a fire that was fully involved, this 100 gallons per minute had about the same effect as a garden hose on the fire. The thought was if we hit the fire with a large volume of water initially, there would be a better cooling effect. The idea was to use a 2 1/2" hose which gave about 225/250 gallons per minute, it was called a blitz line.


Ocean Park Commercial Fire – December 8, 1986

12761–16 Avenue a large commercial building was fully involved when the first trucks arrived.


Cement Fumes – January 17, 1987

A fire on Summerhill Crescent was caused when the liquid cement from a carpet cementing job flashed.


Rescue – July 13, 1987

The need for rescue equipment was demonstrated when a Bronco rolled over pinning the driver. A wrecker had to be used to lift the vehicle off the driver's legs.


Post Fire Check – August 16, 1987

The Department was called to a house on Ocean Cliff Place for a post fire check. Upon arriving the crew found a working fire in the wall.


Crescent Band Shell fire – November 1, 1987

Upon arriving at the band shell in Crescent Park the fire fighters found nothing, only a pile of warm ashes. The fire had burned out under cover of heavy fog during the night (Halloween).


Trapped Woman – December 20, 1987

A trapped woman was rescued from a car which went off Crescent Road. The fifth address we were given proved to be correct one, a half an hour after the initial call.


Fire in the Chief's House? – May 29, 1988

A fire on 24 Ave caused some extra concern to the fire fighters when the address of the call came in as the Fire Chief''s house.

The fire caused extensive damage, but was across the street from the chief's house.

Shed Fire – March 15, 1989

A fire in a shed demonstrates the added danger to fire fighters which has developed in the last few years. The shed contained a supply of chemicals used in swimming pool.


Lamp Shade Fire – May 25, 1989

A fire in a town house on 130th Street supplied the Department with a prop it now uses in its kids tours. A child hide a small teddy bear inside a lamp shade. The trouble started when the light was turned on.


Emergency Assist – September 16, 1989

The crew responded to a medical emergencies services assist call on 126th Street. A boy had run a garden fork through his foot. The boy was transported to hospital with one of the fire fighters holding the fork.


Bicycle Collision – June 12, 1990

A paper boy on his bicycle, coming out of a driveway collided with another cyclist proceeding down the road. The two riders where a brother and a sister.


Smoking in Bed – January 24, 1991

Smoking in bed proved to be very painful to a lady on Ocean Park Road when her nightgown caught fire.


Car Fire – May 26, 1991

Responding to a car fire on 126A Street, the crew found a body in a car. Murder charges where later laid against a man.


Fire Works Injury – November 1, 1991

A teen age boy learned the hard way the danger of careless use of fire works when some went off in his pocket. He spent several weeks in the burn ward.


Wind Storm – November 16, 1991

Seven calls were received due to a severe wind storm and significant tree damage.


RCMP Emergency – November 21, 1991

A medical emergencies services assist call was made for a RCMP Officer who was run over by a fleeing vehicle. He shot out the rear window of the car. A short time later Hall 13 took a second call as we were at the scene. This one was for the driver of the vehicle who suffered gun shot wounds.


Wind Storm – December 1, 1991

Eleven calls due to a wind storm. The fire fighters on the scene at one of these calls where treated to a spectacular show when a primary line touched a fire hydrant, blowing the water main out of the ground.


Arsonist – April 13, 1992

An arsonist set eight different fires in a house on 134B Street, but failed to insure enough air to the fires to do a good job.


Marina Fire – May 28, 1992

The responding units to the Crescent Marina where greeted with a spectacular sight upon arriving. Fifteen boats where lost before the fire was put out most of those were lost before the trucks arrived. A big save.


Railway Accident – June 9th 1992

A train hit a mower working on the railway tracks injuring the operator. The patient was airlifted out by helicopter.


Frank Turnbull – October 22, 1957

One fire call that must be included in this record was in the very early hours on October 22, 1957. The fire in itself was a small stump fire of no consequence; its aftermath was. In the early days of the Department, with its minimal equipment it required only a small number of men to make it ready for the next call, so only three men stayed behind to accomplish this.


One of these men was Frank Turnbull, who was employed by the Crescent Water Works, Frank's main job at a fire was to open or close valves in the antiquated water system at major fires to give the Department all the water it could possibly get. Just as the truck was backing into the hall Frank Turnbull collapsed from a fatal heart attack.


Crescent Beach / Ocean Park Volunteer Fire Department by Derek Uren, 1992
Surrey Archives: Hall 12 reference box 4
Pictures by Jack Berry and Lorne Pearson
Contributions by Lorne Pearson

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