Calgary holds first ever First Responders Show and Shine

Dozens of vehicles showcasing the history of emergency response in Calgary on display

Jack Henderson, a retired District Chief of the Calgary Fire Department, poses next to an original 1952 truck he personally served on, at the Calgary First Responders Show and Shine at the Calgary Police Service Headquarters in Calgary on Saturday, June 25, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Saturday was a vintage car and truck enthusiasts delight, as the Calgary Police Service, Calgary Firefighter Museum, and EMS Foundation showed off nearly 100 years of historical vehicles.

The first ever Calgary First Responders Show and Shine was organized by the YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre.

Alicia Millis, marketing and communications lead for the centre, and one of the organizers for the show and shine, said it was a way of engaging the public outside of a crisis situation.

“We really wanted the community to connect with the first responders in more of a positive light, instead of an emergency situation,” she said.

“We’re here showing off these really neat vehicles, and they get to meet the first responders who are changing the lives of Calgarians every day.”

On display were vehicles from as early as 1929, up to modern ones currently in use by police and EMS. Dozens of classic muscle cars and rat rods were also on display.

Millis said it was a showing of the history of the various services, through their vehicles.

“It is neat to come back and see the history of where we’ve been and how we’ve grown, so this is a really good opportunity to showcase those things,” she said.

Among that history was the transformation of ambulance service being provided by Starr’s Ambulance, started by Ernie Starr, to the City of Calgary, to now Alberta Health Services.

YouthLink is hoping to turn the show and shine into an annual event, with each year being hosted at a different location showcasing police, fire, and EMS.

Calgarians line up to get a peek inside the Calgary Police’s retired Armoured Rescue Vehicle at the Calgary First Responders Show and Shine at the Calgary Police Service Headquarters in Calgary on Saturday, June 25, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Much has changed since 1952

Retired Calgary Fire Department District Chief Jack Henderson was on hand to show off one of the very first vehicles he drove when he joined the CFD in 1952.

The now 90-year-old retired firefighter showed off the 1952 GMC service truck that was part of the then largest purchase of fire fighting vehicles in Calgary by Mayor Don McKay.

He said that the Calgary Firefighter Museum restored the truck into driveable condition as a way to actually save money over a static museum piece.

“The thing is we can drive it, which is much cheaper than hiring a flat deck to move it everywhere,” he said.

The truck was used for 30-years by the CFD, and was retired in 1982. In its day, it carried 20 foot wall ladders, 35 foot extension ladders, and 112 and 114 foot roof ladders. It also had an independent 200 gallon per minute pump separate from the truck’s transmission, which Henderson said they used to fight grass fires.

“It can pump and drive at the same time which is ideal for prairie fires,” he said.

He laughed though, talking about the challenges of fighting those fires.

“When you have a grass fire, you take this thing in and you’re driving along the fire line, you’re putting it out, and it works beautifully,” he said.

“Come through a little hump and you knock all your drains off the bottom of the pump, so it didn’t work then.”

Henderson said that the biggest change since his time in the fire department was the officer attitude towards safety. He said when he started the veteran firefighters would have pushed rookies to run into fires without masks, whereas now the fire department is very safety conscious.

“When when I came on the job, we were smoke eaters,” he said.

“That’s the biggest change that I’ve seen on this job in the 35 years I was there.”

Photos from the show and shine

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