Firefighters mark 50 years of mutual aid in Shelburne County

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By Amy Woolvett

Kenny Morton served as a volunteer fire fighter and then chief of the Town of Shelburne volunteer Fire Department since he joined in 1957 until his retirement in 1991.

He is one of the oldest remaining members to be in the department when mutual aid was born.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the mutual aid agreement between Shelburne County departments.

On July 13, 1964 the agreement was made that each department would agree to assist one another at no charge.

Municipal lines and boundaries became unimportant as one town or village would rush out to help out another when a fire surged out of the control of just one department.

Morton said fire chief Frank Acker in 1964 made a motion to invite all of the fire chiefs to Shelburne fire hall to discuss the possibility of mutual aid.

“Through the formation of this Association, I feel that the county departments were able to gain larger grants from municipal councils through large numbers and a unified approach,” said Morton.

Eleven years after the formation of mutual aid the major Lockeport fire of 1975 occurred.  A fire tore through much of the business district. A total of nine departments responded to Lockeport that night.

When Shelburne got the call, their members were sitting in for their monthly meeting.

There were seven buildings lost that night and an estimated $600,000 in damage.

“It was very windy and cold,” said Morton.  “was a gale of wind and it was 18 below.  Our hose froze so bad we had to borrow a truck from Woodworker’s to transport the unyielding frozen hose back to the station.”

The Shelburne Clow Block fire of 1961 called for help from several different departments including Lockeport where “an explosion sent flames ripping through the wooden structures in Shelburne."

South Shore grocery, a dental office and a small gift shop located on the block were destroyed.  Extensive water and smoke damage was done to the Shelburne Contracting Ltd. Office, Eaton’s  ordering office and Grovestine Grocery as well as several apartments occupied by people.

“All escaped with no injury,” wrote Chester Laing in her diary submitted to the genealogical society.  “Firefighters considered it a miracle.”

Another fire at the Continental Seafood building in Shelburne in 1979 brought in departments from Barrington to Liverpool and lasted from 9:30 p.m. Sunday to 9:30 a.m. Monday.

“We couldn’t get out the fire,” said Morton.

He ended up borrowing the Nova Scotia Power bucket to put out the fire by attacking above it with a 2.5 inch hose.

“You have a lot of decisions to make in a very short time,” he said.

In 1958, departments were called to the Clements Pond fish reduction plant where a fire raged out of control. 

“We kept sinking in the offalls,” he said.  “I would pull one leg out and instead would pull my sock right out of my boot.”

He said the smell took months to get out of his bunker gear.

This year, the mutual aid organization got together to formally celebrate their union.

“We are grateful to all of those who had a vision years ago and worked hard with determ ination to get all of the municipal fire departments started,” said Morton.  “Firefighters today and all of those who served before you are the reason the fire service in Shelburne County is at the level of efficiency, expertise and knowledge it is today.” 

The eight original departments to join in mutual aid in 1964 were Barrington, Barrington Passage, Ingomar/Roseway, the Harbour, Wood’s Harbour, Clark’s Harbour, Lockeport and Shelburne.

Organizations: Fire Department, Shelburne Contracting, Continental Seafood Nova Scotia Power

Geographic location: Shelburne County, Lockeport, South Shore Liverpool Barrington Passage

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