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.

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

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

Cathy’s Christmas Memory

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Me and my big sister at the Ottawa Firefighters Christmas Party, 1983.  (photo courtesy of my mom)

Not everyone knows this about me but I’m a firefighter kid.  Both my sister and I were born and raised in Ottawa where both my  dad and grandfather were firefighters. We lived on a street with other firefighter families, played with their kids and became part of the firefighting family.

Every Christmas, my mom  dressed me and my sister in brand new dresses, did our hair pretty, and took us to the Ottawa Firefighters Children’s Christmas party.  She told us how my grandmother did the exact same thing with my dad and my aunt. We were the second generation of fire kids! So cool.

One of my favourite things were the little pots of ice cream – complete with tiny wooden spoons!  I loved the helium balloons and being there with all my friends. Plus, my dad played the trombone in the Fire Department Band and joined us after the concert.

Being a firefighter’s kid rocked!

But like any good Christmas Party, the best part was Santa! No matter how many Shopping Centre Santas we encountered, my sister and I  knew the Santa at firefighters’ Christmas party was the REAL Santa.

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Me and my family at the Calgary Firefighters Christmas Party, 2015 (photo courtesy of Patton Photography and IAFF 255)

Working at the museum has brought me  full circle to this amazing Christmas memory. Best job ever.

This Christmas, the Calgary Firefighters Association extended an invitation to all CFD support staff  to take part in their annual Christmas party! I got my girls dressed up in their new dresses and did their hair up pretty for them and carried on the tradition for the third generation.

While saying our thank yous and good byes to Mr. Claus, he noticed that Anna’s bow on her dress had come undone. Being the good guy that he is, he offered to tie it up. Awesome.  

As he set to work, Anna stood on her tippy toes and whispered to me “Santa is tying my bow!” .

A perfectly placed bow and a million high fives later, I had the happiest kid in the world. No matter how many Shopping Centre Santas Anna and her sister will encounter this year, the Santa at the Firefighters’ Christmas party is and always will be the REAL Santa.

Wishing you the best of the holidays.

  • Cathy


Musings from the Board- December

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Russell Stratton, President, Firefighters Museum Society, Calgary, 2015

The festivities are often a time when we gather with family and friends and spend time celebrating together. However not everyone will get the opportunity to be with their families over the holidays.

I remember when growing up my late Father would often be working a shift over the holiday period. He would not only miss out on the excitement of Christmas morning, but would often return later that evening to eat his re-heated Christmas dinner, long after everyone else had eaten and had now retired to watch television or play games. I remember him sitting at the table, still in his uniform, eating his dinner whilst other family members passed through the kitchen wishing him a belated Merry Christmas.

So as we come up to the Christmas and New Year holidays please take a moment to spare a thought for the Emergency Services, Hospital Staff, Military Personnel and others who will be away from their families and working to protect the public and save lives this Christmas.

On behalf of the Staff and Directors of the Firefighters Museum of Calgary, I’d like to wish you all a very happy and peaceful holiday season.

Russell Stratton


Firefighters Museum Society, Calgary



Then and Now: Captain Brian Freney, retired

Brian – Then

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Brian in the Honour Guard

Brian joined the Calgary Fire Department in June 1966. He worked at various stations including Station #7,  #27 and #2.  Brian was responsible for the creation of the CFD Honour Guard initially proposing it in August of 1970. The Honour Guard was formed a year later in 1971 which he was a part of for 17 years.  In 1985 Brian joined the Union and was involved with the Union for 8 years. Brian retired from the Calgary Fire Department as a Captain in January of 1995 but that didn’t stop him from fighting fires! In 1998 he joined the Nanoose Bay Volunteer Fire Department where after a year they made him captain. A year later Brian became training officer of the volunteer department where he remained until 2004.

Brian – Now

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Brian working with Marissa

Brian is a frequent visitor and volunteer  at the Firefighters Museum of Calgary – in fact he even sits on our Board of Directors and is the Chair of Vehicle Committee! He is a great source of information when we need to ask him questions about artefacts or to identify people in photographs. He joins us every month at First Tuesday  or Coffee at the Museum as it’s come to be known by our CFD Pensioners. Brian recently drove our 1929 Gotfredson Bickle for our program Live, Legacies and Legends of the Calgary Fire Brigade at Union Cemetery. During Stampede Brian volunteered at our Mobile Museum exhibit everyday through the rain and the heat. We love having him around!