Watford fire department marking 150 years of service this weekend

This mural depicting the history of the Watford Fire Department is on the side of the Watford Fire Hall

Sydney Goodreau/The Independent

The Watford Fire Department is marking 150 years of serving the community with a long-standing fire tradition.

The volunteer firefighters in Watford will host a fire muster, a traditional event with a long history in the firefighting community.

“This year, Saturday, is going to be the 150th anniversary of the Fire Department,” says Watford Deputy Chief Scott Cran. The firefighters wanted to do something special. So they’re calling departments from far and wide to join them for a fire muster – a sort of fair for firefighters which usually includes showing off apparatus and skills competition to show who had the best departments.

“Fire musters used to be a tradition,” says Watford Fire Chief Rick Sitlington. “Before my time, Watford may have taken part in fire musters. I know originally they took part in a lot of competitions in the 1800s.”

The Department was founded by six men in 1874, one year after the town was founded. It was called the Watford Defiance Company before it was renamed in 1936 to the Watford Fire Department.

“The first firefighters were four family members from the Roche family who owned the Roche Hotel in Watford,” says Chief Sitlington. “Back in those days they had a lot of fires, and usually when a building on the main street caught fire the whole block burned because everything was made of wood back then.” That is what prompted the creation of the fire department. 

Since its creation, the department has dealt with all sorts of disasters like the Roche Hotel fire in 1979, the Watford Arena fire in 1985, and Snowmageddon in 2010 where hundreds of people were stranded on Highway 402.

Sitlington is excited to celebrate its long history on Saturday with the muster, an open house, and a free barbecue. The Watford Museum, which used to be the old fire Hall across from the current fire department, will also be open for visitors to learn more about the department’s history.