Old Firehall

Building Location: 

First Avenue and Main Street

Whitehorse, YT

Location Context: 

Refer to the W. P. & Y. R. Railway Depot


Two-storey Frame Structure

Architectural History: 

This building has a two-storey frame structure and a flat roof. As well it has two overhead doors and a concrete block foundation. 

In 1940 the roof was raised 4 feet in order to accommodate living quarters on the second floor. After 1949, further renovations were also made.

Cultural History: 

The first firehall in Whitehorse was built in 1901 after a long campaign promoting its merits to the public. In 1905, after 4 years of convincing residents to financially support the fire department, the firehall burned in the great Whitehorse fire. Although much of the waterfront was destroyed, the firehall partially survived the fire. Ironically, the volunteer fire department had received its new fire-fighting apparatus the day before but did not have much success operating it. The fire engine broke down after only a few minutes of operation. 

The second firehall was built shortly afterwards on the same site and was part of the Yukon Electric power plant. The two-storey portion of the building was used to house the volunteer staff, adjacent to the bell tower. The bell tower was destroyed by fire ca. 1937, after which time the roof was raised and living quarters were installed. The building assumed its square elevation sometime after 1949, when further renovations were made. The tower bell is now in the MacBride Museum. The old firehall is currently used by the Yukon Government to store machinery and materials. 

Until a fire truck was obtained in 1942, the fire department operated a two-wheeled hose cart. The cart consisted of a long hose which drew water from the Yukon River by an electric pump. The department also used a chemical engine, which consisted of a hose attached to a 40-gallon tank containing two separate chemicals. When the tank was tipped, the chemicals mixed and created a gas, which forced water through the hose. Whitehorse got its first paid firemen in 1943–a chief and two staff. The same year a firehall was built at 4th and Wheeler (Whitehorse Elem. and mall sites). Although it was built to service the Dowell construction Camp, it served the downtown area when needed. The Canadian Army took over this firehall in 1945, and worked in conjunction with the civilian fire dept., providing two additional trucks, 20 paid staff, and an ambulance service. In 1962, however, the Army moved its firehall to Camp Takhini, at which time the city was required to increase its own staff and upgrade facilities with a second fire truck. The Takhini firehall was turned over to Dept. of Public Works in the late 1960’s, and eventually to the Whitehorse fire dept. The American Army also had a firehall in 1943, located on Steele St. behind the log telegraph bldg. It was later used as a liquor warehouse, then in 1949 as the new Whitehorse firehall. The present firehall on 2nd Ave was built in 1967 .