The White Rock area had many disastrous fires in the early 1900s, but had no practical firefighting resources until 1934. Nevertheless, they did have fire protection supplied by Blaine, USA; New Westminster and Cloverdale.
One fire of note was a wild land fire in September 1910, which burned from east of the White Rock area through to Blackie Spit, a distance of more than 6 miles. Eight homes owned by the Hazlemere Lumber Company, a number of summer homes and some businesses were all devoured by the flames.
In January 1927, fire destroyed buildings along sea front road (Washington Ave – Marine Drive). Some of the premises destroyed and damaged were; the Pavilion, Auditorium, Clancy Building, Post Office, J.D. MacMilland and Fred Philps buildings. Damaged were Shepherd Brother’s Meat Market (operated by Ben & Len Shepherd – Len Shepherd was Surrey Fire Chief Al Cleaver’s father in law), and Dinty Moore’s Confectionary.
This fire became the central point in establishing a volunteer fire brigade for the White Rock area, with considerable debate toward forming the areas first volunteer fire brigade.
An interesting fire occurred in 1928 at the Great Northern Railway Station Depot on sea front road. William R. Barge (Surrey Captain Harold Barge’s father) supplied buckets from his hardware store to facilitate a bucket brigade in passing water from Semiahmoo Bay to the train station fire, an action that saved the building.
Finally, in 1933, after years of talking, a committee of three – Messrs. W.J. Moffat, W.J. McIlwain and Councillor Logan Davis, was established to muster a group of volunteers to form the White Rock Fire Brigade. W.J. McIlwain was appointed first Deputy and first driver until the group became structurally sound and selected a Chief. The newly created group responded to their first fire in March 1934. It was a bush fire on Buena Vista Avenue that threatened some homes. It was reported that their bucket brigade saved a lot of valuable property.
Organizational development with the newly formed group was lacking initiative. This obstacle soon came under control when retired Fire Chief W.J. Watson of the New Westminster Fire Department and summer resident of the White Rock area was appointed Fire Marshall in 1934.
Fund raising events took place and in 1936 a reorganization meeting was held. W.J. McIlwain was elected Chief. McIlwain soon moved to the interior of BC and the fire brigade faltered for some time under various Chiefs along with a burden of inadequate equipment, requiring tires, batteries and other essential operational items.
In 1940 Jack Kelman (Gassy Jack) became Fire chief and housed the fire truck in his Shell service station at the corner of Oxford and Washington Avenue. So began the functional White Rock Fire Department.