About St. Andrews Volunteer Fire Department

When a local home in St. Andrews was destroyed by fire in the seventies, an intensive lobbying effort was made to build a local fire hall. When a meeting was called to determine community interest and feasibility, over 60 community members attended and immediately created investigative and finance committees. In the “can do” spirit of St Andrews, the fire hall was incorporated just 13 months later. Unlike other fire departments in the province, a volunteer board of directors was formed.  According to long-time fire fighters in St. Andrews, this system is a good model for accountability due to a tradition of careful monitoring and fiscal responsibility. Well before acquiring a building permit and beginning construction, members of the investigative committee purchased a used tanker truck for $1,960 and installed a pumping system. A functional fire fighting system was in place shortly thereafter, despite the fact that there was no permanent “home” for it. Thirty community members initially volunteered to become fire fighters.

At a time before “911,” the fire department created an emergency number for community members to dial in case of fire. When this number was dialled, five separate homes in St. Andrews received the call and a rotating calling system continued until a fire crew was assembled. The issue of access to land for a building was solved when the local parish and Department of Highways collectively agreed to donate land. The question of access to a water supply was resolved when the nearby community centre donated land, which was dammed and converted from a swamp to a pond.

Initial funds were raised through bingos, dances, auctions, raffles and bottle collections were organized. When enough start-up funds were finally in place, construction of the building was underway.  Three decades later St. Andrews has developed an innovative means of securing sustainable resources for the fire hall. While its system still relies on volunteer fire fighters and board members, the community now funds the provision of fire fighting services through a property taxation system. A small municipal grant of $5,000 per year (compared with a structure now valued at an estimated $750,000) remains the only source of external funding for this community-driven and managed service. In the summer of 2008 the fire-hall was expanded to make it 50% larger with funding from a combination of the proceeds from the annual Big Top dance and the property taxation system.