Station 50 - Nordegg
The Brazeau Collieries mine at Nordegg was first opened in 1911; the town was built in 1914.
A trained Mine Rescue Team was a requirement at every mine and the provincial arm of the Department of Mines and Minerals oversaw fulfillment of this requirement. Responding to any emergency was the responsibility of this group of men. In the unlikely event of a structural fire at the mine site, these men would respond. During the 1919 general strike, when all provincial mines were shut down, the Nordegg Mine Rescue Team won first prize in a Rescue Teams competition held in Calgary.
After Nordegg was established (1914), precautions were taken to protect the residents of Nordegg. These precautions included placing fire hydrants in easily accessible locations, on every street, at intervals that were just under twice the distance between hydrants, thus covering the entire town.
One of the advantages of Nordegg within the mining community is the type of care, and caution, in relation to employees, was almost unprecedented. In fact, many mining towns had no water, except that was hauled in by wagon, while other locations had only unsanitary wells for a water supply.
Martin Nordegg's greatest achievement was in the planning and execution of those plans, when Nordegg was under construction. The most militant of unions and even the Communist Party admitted that Nordegg was a good place to live. This was only one outstanding example of Martin Nordegg's paternalism, in relation to "his" town. Once families had settled into their newly constructed homes, the responsibility for fire protection was shifted to the town, and a volunteer Fire Department was established.
This was very informally run and no one was a "Fire Chief" as such.
All available men were considered "Firemen" and were expected to help, within this loosely organized department.
Later in the town's history, the company that insured Brazeau Collieries (Which also included the town) insisted that specific men be selected, and paid, to run the Volunteer Fire Department. Four men at any one time became the paid employees of Brazeau Collieries' Fire Department, thus becoming the four Fire Chiefs. These men were paid $7.50 per month to assume this responsibility. All men were expected to help, as needed, but at least one of the "Chiefs" was required to respond when the mine-whistle signal for fire was blown.
Known names of men paid to be part of the fire team, the Chiefs, were Frank Marsaco, Tony Mele, Zupido D'Amico, Stuart Barton, and Walter Campbell. Forest Fires were the responsibility of the Department of Lands and Forests (Forestry). They had the power, by law, to conscript fire fighters from the mining community, as needed. This was decidedly unpopular with the men, who were paid approximately 60 cents per day to fight bush fires, considerably less than what could be made while working at the mine.
Nordegg actually had relatively few fires over its 40 years, but those they did have were massive and include; the Bighorn Trading Company General Store (1944); Bakery (1944); The School (1945); Lower Boarding House (1949). By far, the largest and most disastrous was the June 1950, blaze that destroyed all the briquetted plants which was Brazeau's main product. This fire actually was the beginning of the end for the company. Although the briquette plant was designed and rebuilt with the most technologically advanced equipment of the day, the climate for coal was running dry. Brazeau Collieries and Nordegg ceased all operations in 1955. Station 50 is located in Nordegg, 3km south of Hwy11. This station has a Battalion Chief, one Captain and two Lieutenants with 20 members on the department. With the members and a Engine, Tender, Rescue, Rapid Response unit, this station responds fore fire suppression, ice rescue, and vehicle extrication. They protect a portion of Clearwater County with automatic aid to two stations for assistance.