Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What did the 1861 Toronto Fire brigade cost?

A colorised photograph posted in the always delightful Vintage Toronto Facebook group led me to do some very light skimming about the history of the Toronto Fire department.

Toronto Fire Hall No. 3 & firemen: Yonge St. w. side, s. of Grosvenor, 1874.
The tower for this hall still stands. The fire engine pictured was the ‘J.B. Boustead’, built by the Silsby Co. in 1871, named after a city alderman. 

I discovered that in 1861, the cost of running the fire brigade was $7,520. The Chief Engineer’s stipend was $1,000.

The itemized costs of running the Toronto Fire Brigade in 1861
Source: Landmarks of Toronto, Vol. 2, J.Ross Robertson, p592

150 years later, the operating budget for Toronto Fire Services is roughly $369 million... How Toronto has grown (Good thing the Chief’s salary hasn’t increased proportionately!).

In case you’re wondering why so few firefighters are listed for the entire city, it’s because the Fire Department was primarily a volunteer organization (until about 1876, when firemen were first stationed in fire halls). In 1859 there were 263 firemen in total, according to J. Ross Robertson.

The Toronto Fires of 1895 and 1904

This reminds me -- I recently put together a pictorial overview of the Great Toronto Fires of 1895 and 1904, as part of a bonus update for my Goad’s Atlas of Toronto mapping site. Not a lot of people have stumbled across it yet, so I’m mentioning it here.

You’ll find an annotated gallery of stunning photographs filched from the city archives, maps documenting the scope of the fires, newspaper accounts of thrilling escapes -- and even some surviving film footage!

The Fire of 1904 destroyed a massive portion of downtown Toronto
Photo courtesy City of Toronto Archives
View more photos of the devastation here