Alta Lake's first firefighters 

50 years on

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By 1971, response areas had been reconfigured and expanded to include "13 Zones." The growing community was now protected by a larger volunteer contingent, which that year's annual report stated there were "eighteen good men now prepared to respond to emergencies."

Records show responding firefighters included early Alta Lake pioneer Captain Walter Zebrouski for "East of Highway#99" and Captain Buist Clark at "Alta Vista Subdivision," to name just two. Some Zones, like "Ski Boot and White Gold Estates" had "no representation."

Finally, after about 10 years without a true home, the Valleau family logging business donated a surplus building for a fire hall; a place to hang their fire helmets and house the department's first vehicle. That tank-truck was a recycled "milk delivery van" purchased in Vancouver and converted to carry equipment and some water (no fire pump). The "milk truck," as everyone who tells the story calls it, found a home on the Valleau property near today's campground at Mons.

In April 1967 the Ratepayers Association's Don Gow, (canvassing the then 92 parcels and their land owners) petitioned Victoria and the "Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council... for the incorporation of an improvement district under the Water Act and suggest the name of Alta Lake Fire Protection District... for the providing for the purchase, construction, maintenance and operation... for fire protection."

Even back then the wheels of government turned slowly. It took another year and a half to complete the to-ing and fro-ing of signatures, forms, consents and approvals from Alta Lake to Victoria and back again before Alta Lake received its formal fire protection funding formula.

While important, this new source of funding was limited. Into the 1970s, Alta Lake continued to be considered an "unorganized territory" by the province. Volunteers still struggled to access basic firefighting equipment so partial funding was still raised the old-fashioned way — by hard work and community spirit. Money was earned dime-by-dime and dollar-by-dollar from events like the "Ice Break Up" raffle and the "Fireman's Ball," for years the highlight of the Alta Lake social season.

The sprung floors of Rainbow Lodge hosted many memorable and raucous Firefighter Balls over these early years. While dances and raffles would never provide all the funding, these community driven events proved an important part of the fire department's and valley's early history.

With incorporation of the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 1975, the Alta Lake Volunteer Fire Department was supplanted by a municipal force and the slow evolution from a one hundred per cent volunteer force to a "combination fire department" comprised of both career and volunteer firefighters.

While the ALVFD namesake disappeared some 30 plus years ago, the tradition, influence and importance of that organization and its committed volunteers lives on.

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