In 1754 Halifax’s first organized firefighting group was formed under the name of the Union Fire Club. This group was entirely volunteer and consisted of several hundred men who formed themselves into a number of clubs. These clubs included, The Union Protection, Hand in Hand, Sun Fire, Phoenix and Heart in Hand. The clubs functioned in cooperation with military and naval forces under the direction of fire wardens.
Firefighting equipment in 1754 was primitive. It consisted of water buckets, ladders, axes, saws and engines which had to be pumped by hand. Although equipment was simple the following rules were imperative:
1. That every member shall be provided with two leather buckets marked with their names on one side and the Senior Fire Club on the other, and two bags each, made of four yards of canvas. The said buckets shall be hung up with the bags in some convenient place of each member’s house so as to be ready on all emergencies.
2. That said bags and buckets shall not be employed on any other occasion than that of fire, and that every member who shall have his buckets out of the way.
3. That upon the call of fire, the members of the Union Engine Company shall immediately respond to the place where such fire is, with their buckets and bags, the buckets to be delivered to be used as the occasion requires.
Halifax’s fire clubs were highly competitive with the object of the competition to be the first group to the fire. The Union Fire Club had a social side as well. The various clubs often dined together and a grand ball was held each year to for all to attend.
Firefighting was a serious business for the Union Fire Club. As the fire bells sounded in Halifax during all hours of the day, the volunteer firefighters rushed to the engine houses to run with the hose reels, or if too far away, they ran to the scene of the fire, often in their best clothes. In the dead of night the volunteer firefighters would be awaken my a military policemen, or night watchman rapping on the doors with a call of fire. Every member had to be present at each call of fire, and in the case of absence, they were fined unless a valid reason was given.