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North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department celebrates 60 Years of Service

On Sept. 9, the North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a public open house. Drop into the North Oyster station on Yellow Point Road from 11 am to 3 pm.

This fun family event features historical displays,  fire hose, rescue and extraction demos, a silent auction, door prizes, and burgers and hot dogs. There will also be a free child car seat safety check on site, says Chief Jason Layman.

Starting at 12:30pm there will be speakers and service awards with two members receiving their 30 year service awards.

Sixty years of serving the community is a milestone worth celebrating. Chief Layman  who has been a member for over 25 years says he has seen many changes. Today’s volunteer fire fighters are held to the same high standards as professional fulltime firefighters.

Volunteer fire fighters save municipalities and regional districts millions of dollars. While NOVFD is not lacking for operational funds, they have out-grown their hall, and are storing some equipment off-site.

The ongoing challenge they face is recruitment. “We are always looking for new members as some retire or move away,” says Layman.

The NOVFD currently has 18 members but would like to increase their roster to 30. The commitment is once a week practice, with a six month training period to get certification.  A large percentage of the annual budget is allocated exclusively to training.

They are also roles that don’t require the fitness to be able to charge into burning buildings, says Layman. People of all ages and fitness levels  are needed to assist with running the trucks, managing the hall, communications, etc. “Work is underway to develop an auxiliary program that could manage some of these tasks, leaving fire-fighters to focus on call-outs and not “burning them out” with other tasks.”

“It feels great to do good for your community.”

Looking back

The North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department was incorporated  on September 18, 1957, after five months of discussion by the North Oyster Rate payers Association.

A 1936 International fire truck was purchased for $500.  The first fire truck was housed in a garage on Jack Cairns property until the fire hall was completed in 1967. During this time, Mr. Cairns’ own vehicles were exposed to the elements. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Cairns donated the land on which the fire hall was built. They also provided water from their well for use in the hall. Sandy Trudell donated the cost of having the original lot cleared.

The first officers were: Honorary Chief, A.B. (Barney) Wilson; Fire Chief Tom Hawthornthwaite (who served a total of 13 years); Deputy Chief Jack Cairns; Fire Captain Harold Adshead (who also designed the fire hall and ultimately officially opened the building on December 9, 1967); First Lieutenant Norman Trudell; Second Lieutenant Fred Bell; Third Lieutenant Don Wilson; Alternatives Cliff Williams and Dave Fisher; and Secretary Alex Smith (who served as Secretary-Treasurer for nine years). Jack Cairns and Jim Morgan served as Chief for two years each, and Doug Lambert for four.

A Ladies Auxiliary was formed September18, 1958 with Irene Hawthornthwaite as president; Vice-president Jackie Dick; secretary-treasurer Charlotte Williams; and Dorothy Scofield. The sale of 200 cookbooks compiled by the Auxiliary members was a source of revenue along with cabaret dances at the Cedar Community Hall.

From 1959, funds were raised for the materials for the hall, and volunteer work parties were organized under the Building Committee. The committee consisted of Harold Adshead, Jack Bell and Bill Doskotch. The hall was completed in 1967 as North Oyster’s centennial project, at a cost of $9,800. The area serviced included Takala Road to the Nanaimo River at Cassidy, over to the Dogwood Store in Cedar, and across to Yellow Point. In 1959 there were 214 parcels of property in the fire district, not including Waterloo.

In March1967, North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department came under the jurisdiction of the regional District of Cowichan Valley. It was the first fire department to be organized by a Regional District. The first Board of Directors selected were: Tom Hawthornthwaite, Bob Scofield, Herb Randall, Jim Williams, Max deJong, and Alex Smith as secretary-treasurer.

A 1969 Ford 750, 625gpm triple combination pumper truck was officially received September 6, 1969 and designated Engine 2.

In 1972, a used 1960 Ford 750 cab and chassis was purchased for $1,577. Using the facilities of  Howie Davis and later Alex Wickham, work-parties were organized under Keith Wyndlow to enlarge the tank formerly used on the original truck and install an extra large valve to ensure a quick “turn-around time” when hauling and dropping water . The truck was put into service in 1973. An adjacent piece of property, 100’X100’ was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Fred Cairns in 1972, for a low price of $500, creating a parking area and space for expansion at a future date if necessary.

A referendum for $60,000 was passed November 17, 1979 for a new cab-over tanker of 1,000 gallons and equipment, including a power take-off mounted pump. An addition was put on the fire hall, partly by volunteers under the direction of Barry Patterson. Over the following years they acquired and replaced trucks and apparatus.

The members of the North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department are dedicated to serving our community. Willing to respond to any kind of emergency at any time of day or night. They put their own lives on hold to assist anyone, from neighbour to complete stranger.

NOVFD your community thanks you!

If you are interested in serving your community, please contact them for an application and more information. They are recruiting now. Visit www


About the author: Angie

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