The fire engine house on the corner of Albert and Church streets was specially constructed to house a prize possession of Upper Canada Village, our "Queen" Fire Engine. It is a hand-pumper built in 1851 by George Perry & Bros. of Montreal. It was previously owned by the Brockville and Lyn fire departments. In small villages and towns, firefighting equipment was generally purchased by the municipality and they often bought second-hand equipment from larger towns and cities, who, by the 1860s, needed larger engines that had up to five hose outlets and took up to 40 men to operate.
It was not uncommon, however, for fundraising events to be held to raise money for further equipment, or for donations to be made by businesses and individuals who had an interest in having fire-fighting capability on hand. It is not by accident that our engine house is near the mills and businesses in the village. Fundraising would include musical concerts, Annual Balls, picnics or excursions, as well as money raised by subscription from those wishing to join the volunteer fire company.
In a small village or town, ringing a church bell served as the alarm system, when a fire was discovered. Firemen were equipped with axes, ladders and pike poles. If caught in the early stages, fires could often be contained, if not put out entirely. Once out of control, firemen were often powerless to stop the spread. In 1849, a fire in Toronto consumed a large part of the town and was brought under control only because of a change in wind direction and because it started to rain.
Fire companies often staged demonstrations of their prowess in pumping trials or competitions against neighbouring fire companies. Pumping trials determined who could shoot water the farthest and for the longest time. Wash contests determined which company could most quickly flood the opposing fire engine. These were popular events at community celebrations of the Queen's Birthday, as well as at Agricultural Exhibitions held every autumn. Decked out in red shirts, fire companies often marched in local parades, displaying their decorated fire engines, the same way that local military units would display their weaponry.