Glenbow, Lougheed House & Us!

It’s official. We’re everywhere! As most of you know, we’ve partnered with Lougheed House in the exhibit Pomp & Circumstance: Celebrations of the Fire Department Kind – opening in just one week! (It runs from October 26, 2016 to January 29, 2017). Our Museum Assistant Catherine has assumed the role of lead preparator for the project and has done an amazing job!


Museum Assistant Catherine prepping foam core for the display cases!

We’ve also just been given the keys to our new location in partnership with the Glenbow Museum! THAT’S RIGHT! We’ll be installing a pop-up exhibit in the old Manny’s Cafe! Pop by for a visit starting November 4 and running until the end of April! Stay tuned for progress reports. Rumour has it there will be cake.

We are thrilled to be connected with these two cultural institutions and hope that our partnerships allow us all to make more connections within the community. We’re stronger together!



Museum Board Director & CFD Firefighter Lieutenant Stephen J. measures the space to make sure all his good ideas are going to fit! You’re going to have to come and check it out!

And of course, we’re working on our new space to open in Summer 2017. In the interim, please stop by any of our satellite locations (Lougheed House and Glenbow Museum) to say hello, check out our exhibits – who knows there might even be a firefighter or two hanging around!



A view of the creative chaos in our office! How my brain feels sometimes.


Volunteers Needed

We’re working on a pop-up exhibit and information centre to tentatively open on November 1, 2016 in the downtown core! We’ve got lots of great ideas, cool artefacts, and amazing photographs and now we just need volunteers to activate the space!

We have shifts available throughout the week  (except for Mondays) and we think it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity to meet people, and let them know about our museum!

Please contact if you’re interested and we’ll send you more  details!




Exhibition think tank session in process.

Great things happen in threes

As many of you know, we’ve been under construction for almost four years now. In fact, since taking the job with the Firefighters Museum of Calgary, our permanent gallery spaces have been closed for longer than they’ve been open!

Not for long!

You know the saying that GREAT things happen in threes?  Check this out:


Our fabulous exhibit:  Pomp & Circumstance: Celebrations of the Fire Department Kind, opens at the Lougheed House from October 27, 2016 to  – January 29, 2017. Featuring artefacts from our collection, the Calgary Stampede, the Glenbow Museum and private collectors, this exhibit explores the celebratory and community minded activities of the Calgary Fire Department.


A celebration of the fire department kind in original Fire Station #1 – perhaps a visit by the Royals? circa 1885 – 1911, FMC Collection



We’re also collaborating with another cultural institution in our community and although we’re bursting at the seams to tell you who it is  and what we’re up to,  we’re going to keep it under wraps for a little while longer!



We’re working on a tentative opening date for SUMMER 2017 for our brand new museum! Construction is under way and here’s a sneak peek of what’s going on behind the scenes:

I’ll be posting progress reports on a more regular basis so come back often. Got a question, suggestion or comment? Send the museum a message here:


Captain Rob Tomlinson

On Friday, June 10, at 5 am,  retired Captain Rob Tomlinson, Calgary Fire Department, lost his battle with cancer.
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Captains Rob Tomlinson and Brian Freney (both CFD retired) during the Lives, Legacies & Legends tour, 2015.

At first I  hesitated in writing this post. This one hurt. The loss was private. I didn’t want to share it with anyone. Then I realized how important it was to tell others about the amazing impact this man had on me and the museum in the last five years.


Right from the first time I met this man, I knew he was some kind of wonderful. A strong supporter and friend to the museum without hesitation. Without question. Unconditionally.
He attended the Museum’s First Tuesdays or Coffee at the Museums when they first started and encouraged others when they hesitated to try something new. Robbie and I sipped tea while the others drank their coffee.
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A collection of fave friends at First Tuesdays (Coffee at the Museum), 2012

Knowing that the Museum needed more attendance, he invited the Pioneer Auto Club, to hold a mini-rally at the museum. Our staff and antique fire trucks certainly appreciated the company!
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Pioneer Auto Club Meet 2012

He served up delicious CFD bits of information during impromptu tours whenever he visited and could tell a story like no other.
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Robbie the Museum Guy, 2012

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Rob & Brian  – best friends for more than 40 years. And still laughing!


Robbie connected with everyone he met. He would always ask  how you were doing and was genuinely interested in the answer. He epitomized kindness – just ask someone who knows him!
Whenever he thought I needed back up or show of support, he’d round up the 3 Musketeers (Art and Brian) and they’d be there –  from the Museum’s AGM to Night at the Museum.
“Rebecca needs our support.” he’d say.
He was right. I did and still do.
His contagious smile and laughter lit up the museum and filled our hearts. I never dreamt I would have my heart broken by a firefighter – and not this way.
Robbie – my friend – the kettle is always on and the museum doors forever open – should you decide to visit.

Preparing for the inevitable…

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Cold War Ephemera from the Archives

“There is room for YOU in Calgary Civil Defence – where you can learn to be of use to yourself; your loved ones; your neighbours; your city and your country”

Civil Defence in Action, City of Calgary (1960s)

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Would you be  prepared for a nuclear fallout resulting from a Cold War? Check out these recommendations from our archives:

  1. Before the fallout comes, take some farm and garden produce into the house.
  2. Wash your hands well after handling animals that were exposed to fallout.
  3. You could pile earth against buildings, if you have a bulldozer.
  4. You may have to bury animals that die of radiation sickness.
  5. Stay in some form of protected accommodation until the radiation intensity has dropped to the point where it is safe for us to resume a more normal pattern of living.
  6. During a blast – seek protection in the basement lying down near a wall, under a table, or close to some exit in case of fire. The fallout shelter is for after the explosion.
  7. Last person into shelter places toilet and garbage cans in passageway (For the first 48 hours, you will not be allowed to go outside, so blocking the passageway will not matter).
  8. Bring coveralls, rubber boots, rubber gloves for adults. To be used in venturing outside even after instructions have been given that this is safe for short periods.
  9. ALSO – 1 pair of wool socks (per person) are an essential item for your emergency pack

Cold War Blog Image 2

In retrospect, things we thought were great ideas don’t always turn out that way!  But during the time period people believe these ideas are cutting edge and useful. Nothing exemplifies this phenomenon better than the Cold War documents we have in our collection here at the Firefighters Museum of Calgary. In a time of paranoia and fear, people will turn to any information that might make them feel more prepared and safe. 


LODD: Lieutenant Harold Smith; May 26, 1971

Forty-five  years ago, on May 26, 1971, CFD Lieutenant Harold Smith answered his last alarm becoming the fifth active Line of Duty Death in the Calgary Fire Department.

Accident: May 26, 1971, approximately 11:15 pm
Location of Fire: Suite #12, 2nd Floor (rear) north end. McTavish Block – 815 Macleod Trail SE

Description of Occurrence: While aggressively attacking a fire in Suite #12, 2nd floor rear of the McTavish Block, Lieut. H.E. Smith indicated he was having difficulties and while attempting to leave the fire area, collapsed. He was removed to the street and given resuscitation. The ambulance in attendance took him to the Calgary General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 24:00.

(as per the preliminary investigation report)


Newspaper articles regarding CFD LODD Harold Smith; May 1971; Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collection

May 27, 1971

Please be advised that funeral services for Lieutenant Harold E. Smith will be held Saturday, May 29, 1971, 1:30 pm at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 18th avenue and 1st street Sw.

Members are required to assemble at the C.N.R. Station no later than 1:10 pm and will parade to St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Dress will be Uniform Tunic, Light Blue Shirt and Tie weather permitting and Burberries will be worn if weather inclement.

C.A. Harrison, Chief

Calgary Fire Department

(as per CFD memo)


A Fireman’s Funeral


Harold Smith, born in Bigger, Saskatchewan, on June 10th 1920, served with the Calgary Fire Department for almost 26 years. Initially employed following his discharge from the Navy in 1945 until January 1952, Smith returned to the job later that year.

Following his return, Smith gained a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant in April 1969, a reward for his loyalty and hard work. He earned a reputation as a respected and well liked firefighter, and his service to the City of Calgary extended beyond the working realm, displayed by his role in the apprehension of a serial robber in October 1952, who was in the act of stealing a woman’s purse!

On May 26, 1971, B shift at Number 1 Station responded to an alarm at 815 McLeod Trail SE. Upon arrival, they discovered the male resident of the second floor apartment, Alfred S. Brown, unconscious and badly burned.

While a number of firefighters tried to help Brown, Lt. Smith and others tried to put out the burning hot blaze inside the apartment. Lt. Smith fell victim to the heat and smoke, rumoured to have called out ‘Boys, I’m getting dizzy, right before he passed out. His colleagues tried to resuscitate him to no avail.  Lt. Harold Smith died at around midnight, on the way to Calgary General Hospital, while Alfred Brown also died from his injuries in the following days. Smith left behind a wife, and two sons.  Lt. Smith was to start his annual vacation on May 28, 1971.

Arson investigators determined that the accidental ignition of a sofa by a lit cigarette caused the fire. Many changes have taken place in fire prevention over the last 45 years, but tragic events such as the McTavish fire are a reminder of the need for awareness at home, as well as the risks the Fire Department faces when protecting the public. Protective equipment is much better today, compared to 45 years ago, but accidental fires still present a huge threat to the safety of firefighters and the public.


Letter from CFCN Calgary, May 31, 1971; Firefighters Museum of Calgary Collecton

Museum’s AGM


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that an Annual General Meeting of the Firefighters Museum Society Calgary will be held at Room 220, Multi Agency Training Centre located at 5075, 23rd Avenue SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2G 3H2 on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm. for the following purposes:

  1. To present and review the Annual Report 2015
  2. To nominate and elect a Board of Directors
  3. To review and approve proposed FMSC By Law changes   (section 2.2, FMSC Policy Manual)
  4. To nominate and elect Committee Members as applicable
  5. To discuss the Museum’s direction 2016-2021


Russell Stratton

President, Firefighters Museum Society Calgary

Please RSVP to Rebecca Melenka

Executive Director, Firefighters Museum Society Calgary

The Firefighters Museum Society, Calgary adheres to the City of Calgary’s Code of Conduct and Respectful Workplace Policy, and manages its meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

Happy Valentine’s Day


d72f586915f2e857d26639314f809e83Being tasked by my boss to come up with new programming ideas, I had been doing a lot of thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it relates to the collections in the museum. I got this idea to share with you all “Love Letters From the Collection”! How great would that be? But, I couldn’t find any. I couldn’t find valentines, love notes, postcards with sweet messages- nothing!

I couldn’t understand it. Firefighting is quite possibly the most romanticized profession in history! I’ve been around firefighters my whole life, I know they like collecting trophies, and awards, and mementos from their careers. The collection is full of things made of bronze and leather that will last for generations, could what I wanted really be that hard to find? Then I remembered Peter and Bobbie Bunn.

The very first interview I conducted for the Museum was with Peter and Bobbie. They had donated a large scrapbook of images from his career with the CFD and we reminisced together over the pages, one by one.

We saw images of devastating fires, and ceremonies commemorating greatness. But then peppered in among the fire shots were pictures of real moments in their lives.

One picture in particular caught my eye- 50 years younger and dressed up, Bobbie was sitting on Peter’s lap. They both looked so happy and carefree. Bobbie started laughing when she saw it and Peter just smiled at her. It was so obvious t10959355_781305985273657_6022043014556570229_nhat these two were ‘the love’ that I was looking for in the collection.

I didn’t need to find a 100 year old love note, or a small valentine sent home from the war. I just needed to remember that the men and women whom the collection represents, are the love I was looking for.

Enjoy the day!


Museum Assistant


Relationships are such an integral part of our lives and we should give them the utmost care and attention. They are based on the connections to people from our mutual past, our collective history. People, places, artefacts and their stories are the conduit through which we connect with the past.

My relationship with the Firefighters Museum of Calgary began in 2008, when I joined the Community Safety Division of the Calgary Fire Department. My coordinator at the time was a huge advocate of supporting and helping groups both within and outside of CFD. The Museum was one of those areas that frequently needed additional support to ensure the success of their outreach and programs. He saw Community Safety’s goal of fire prevention as a natural fit with the museum. We learn from our past, to improve the future for everyone.

I really had no idea at the time, the tremendous value there was to preserving our firefighting past. The history of firefighting is so incredibly fascinating. It shows the evolution of our relationship with fire, with each other, and with Calgarians. What we do now for citizens of this amazing city, is built directly on the sweat, tears and sacrifices of previous firefighters.

I cherish my relationship with the Museum, especially its people, because ultimately, it is individual people we form connections and relationships with. The place, the Firefighters’ Museum is the educational vessel which makes this possible and so very special.

Carol Henke

CFD Member (14 years and counting) & FMC Director No. 6



This is snapshot of when I ‘assisted’ in knocking down the Fire Prevention Bureau and  Museum building in 2013.

The Story of Gary and Chantel

Shortly after I started working at the museum, I made a discovery on our museum’s Instagram page. I was noodling around (checking out other museum’s networks and hashtags) when I stumbled upon a familiar face.

I recognized retired Firefighter Gary Borkristl in a photograph, who was sitting with a young woman at a banquet table. The caption read: I still can’t believe 25 years after this man saved my life, I finally got to meet him! It’s insane that my very own daughter is now the same age I was when this firefighter saved me. I wouldn’t have her if it wasn’t for him. This was an amazing night and I’ll never forget it.

I thought the story was incredible; I contacted Gary Borkrislt and the woman, Chantel. They decided to share their story with me…


Gary and brother

Article courtesy of Gary Borkrisl.


“I was two years old and my brother was three years old when the house fire happened,” Chantel begins, “it was a basement fire … my brother and another little boy lit some paper on fire in the furnace which ended up causing the fire.”

When firefighters arrived at the scene, Chantel’s mother was frantically yelling, “The kids are downstairs!” Gary and fellow firefighter, Dale Strand immediately went to the basement, but heavy smoke made it impossible to see. Gary and Dale had to feel their way down to the basement. Gary found Chantel behind a couch; with Dale’s help they carried her out of the burning building to the paramedics.

Returning to the basement, Gary found Chantel’s brother under a mattress. “I doubled back with him and found the stairs and carried him up and outside, where I ran with him towards an ambulance. I ripped off my air tank and mask, and sat out on the front lawn totally wiped thinking, Geez, I hope they are alive”. Gary later learned that Chantel had suffered smoke inhalation, heavy burns, possible blindness, and that the little boy did not survive. “Wow, that really bummed all the crew out, but especially me and Dale.”

Gary and Chantel never forgot each other. After a failed attempt to meet in 2010, a lucky coincidence brought them together. “In 2013 I won a photoshoot and had decided to use it to help deal with my burns and to embrace them.” Chantel had her shoot in a Red Deer Fire Hall and decided to write about Gary in an article about her experiences.

“Just then I happened to Google my own name and up came this picture of a pretty lady in firefighting gear,” Gary explains. “Then I read the story and almost lost it! I yelled at my wife that ‘I found Chantel!’” Gary contacted the photographer of the shoot and the pair has been in regular contact with each other since.

Last year Chantel was invited to be a guest at the Calgary Firefighters Pensioners Banquet; “It was the most amazing experience of my life, meeting the men who everyday risk their lives, who thanked me for being there. I still can’t fathom how many men cried to see me there and thanked me. I never thought I could be helping them. I’m truly blessed to have been there.”

Gary and Chantel

Gary and Chantel at the Firefighters Pensioners Banquet in 2014. Photo Courtesy of Chantel Porter.



My favorite hashtag from her original post? #heismyhero.


Happy Friday everyone!