Preparing for the inevitable…

Cold War Blog Image 3 (2)

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)

Cold War Blog Image 1 (3)

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