Richard Rowberry

Nelson fire history website launched

A new website created by Richard Rowberry is bringing the crackling, smoky history of Nelson’s fire department to life.

A new website is bringing the crackling, smoky history of Nelson’s fire department to life.

Local playwright and historian Richard Rowberry was inspired to create the site by last year’s fire hall centennial and a Touchstones exhibit that coincided with it.

“It was clear there was a wealth of information,” he says. “I looked at old newspapers and some fascinating photographs in the Touchstones archives. It seemed like a good idea to put it together as a package.”

The website, entitled Red Sky Over Nelson, is divided into several sections: the general history of the department, which dates back to 1891; the story of the Nelson fire bug of 1911-12, which Rowberry previously wrote a play about; a memoir by a chief’s daughter of living in the fire hall in the 1950s; a photo gallery of changing equipment; a chronological list of the city’s; major fires; a list of chiefs; a profile of former chief Donald Guthrie, the fire hall’s role in the filming of Roxanne.

Some content previously appeared in the Star or in the museum exhibit.

Rowberry found funding for research and to hire Avia Moore to build the site. “She did a wonderful job and is a great collaborator,” Rowberry said.

He also had support from recently-retired chief Simon Grypma, whom he called “an incredible enthusiast. More than just a fire chief, he’s a real resource for the whole history of the department.”

Grypma provided an introduction to the site in which he says the stories and photos it captures “depict some of the most incredible tales of bravery by the men and women of the Nelson Fire Department and the strength of the citizens who endured the ravages of fire over the past 124 years.”

Grypma, who spent 38 years with the department, said he spent many night shifts walking between the trucks and thinking of the animals that once stood in their place. “I could almost smell the horses and hear their heavy breathing as the alarm bells sound out a box alarm. What a life to be a firefighter in those years gone by.”

Rowberry, whose site devoted to founding mayor John Houston earned the BC Historical Federation’s 2012 website prize, said his next online project will be about family histories of the First World War, both at the front and at home.

Both the Houston and fire history webpages are under the umbrella site kootenayhistory.com. Rowberry hopes other local history sites will join. He’s also hoping to make the material widely available to local schools.

You can find the fire history site here.

Just Posted

Downtown Automotive awarded for hiring practices

The annual award is handed out by the Kootenay Career Development Society

Castlegar, Grand Forks areas to see cleaner winter roads under new contract

YRB set to take over 10-year maintenance contract on Monday

VIDEO: Nelson Tennis Club’s new home opens

The revitalized courts above LVR had their grand opening Saturday

Purcell withdraws from Nelson council election

First-time candidate Heather Keczan has also withdrawn

U.S. Court upholds Teck pollution ruling

Teck appealed a previous decision that it must pay $8.25 million in Colville Confederated Tribes’ court costs

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

VIDEO: a close-up look at what you were breathing during the wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

B.C. could provide clues as to how New Brunswick electoral results shake out

Premier Christy Clark faced a strikingly similar scenario following the province’s 2017 election

Ottawa working to iron out kinks in public alert system

The alerts are being credit with saving lives during last week’s tornadoes

Premier John Horgan ponders debate on voting system changes

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson wants one-on-one, no Green

Saganash drops F-bomb in Commons over federal approach to Trans Mountain

NDP’s reconciliation critic accused federal government of ‘wilfully’ violating constitutional duties

VIDEO: B.C. dairy farmer says Trump doesn’t understand the industry

‘They need supply management just as bad as we need to keep it’: sixth generation farmer Devan Toop

VIDEO: Death threat, racist comments spewed over empty seat on B.C. bus

Transit Police are investigating the incident, shared online by fellow passengers on Vancouver bus

Most Read