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In the summer of 1962, out of the first tentative discussions a disparate but energized firefighting corps was organized. Technically, this may not have been a "fire department" in the conventional sense. It was, however, a gathering of concerned individuals who, after they identified the fire threat, conspired to achieve the goal of preventing, fighting and stopping fire. To add to the challenge of getting crews up and running, they were 100 per cent reliant upon their own resources and initiative for everything that was needed for this start up venture.
As a momentum was sparked, the pool of potential volunteers was drawn from a very short list of candidates and for many years to come, the volunteer numbers would count but a handful.
Unfortunately, few historical records of these first firefighting efforts remain. We do know that the first crew included Doug Mansell, Dan Noyes, Glen Creelman and Don Gow. The group elected Dick Fairhurst (later a Citizen of the Year honouree) as the first Fire Chief; a position he would hold for more than a decade. These dedicated men, with a wide base of community supporters, were the charter members of what became the long tradition of volunteer firefighting at Alta Lake and Whistler.
It must be remembered that in the early 60s there were probably less than 50 full-timers living at Alta Lake from Function Junction to Parkhurst and up the Soo. Still, this first "band of brothers" quickly became dedicated and earnest volunteer firefighters in the true definition of that word. Even with their limited resources and knowledge, the "boys" (it would be a few years before any women joined the ranks) were as committed and dedicated to their new calling as their equipment, time and varied skill sets allowed.
Like the many that would follow over the next five decades, these volunteers offered their time and best efforts for the benefit of their community. They received no fanfare and zero compensation for their efforts except for an occasional case of "Lucky" or bottle of rye.
Thursday nights were set aside for fire practice with drills held at locations up and down the valley. In those bygone days, setting fire to an abandoned shack or cabin to practice "live" firefighting tactics was commonplace (an option abandoned in 1993). As training progressed under Chief Fairhurst's leadership, this rag-tag group came together developing the skills, knowledge and the ability to safely fight and contain small fires.
Of course even for these pioneer firefighters there were limitations to the loyalty they might offer. Florence Petersen, the first President of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society, and an early Alta Lake Ratepayers Officer, spoke about one part of the group's earliest training regime.
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