Students in Prince George, B.C., use paintbrushes to preserve history from old fire hall's brick walls

·2 min read

Firefighters in Prince George, B.C., had a decades-long practice of chalking their name and the date they were hired on the red brick walls inside of the main fire hall's hose tower.

But the old building was decommissioned in January and writing with chalk no longer made sense on the white halls of the new fire hall's tower, a place where fire hoses are dried out.

So 11 Grade 12 students from Duchess Park Secondary came up with the idea to continue the tradition using black acrylic paint to replicate the signatures left by more than 250 fire and rescue officers over the years.

They tackled the job in mid-January at the new building located on 2012 Massey Drive, which replaces the old one near the city hall.

The students also painted more than 50 officers' names that had faded on the old structure which began operation in 1956.

City of Prince George
City of Prince George

Cliff Warner, deputy chief of Prince George Fire Rescue, had his name and date of passing his probation — Aug. 8, 1995 — recreated and on Thursday, Warner and his retired colleagues toured the new hose tower.

"They had a lot of stories from way back beyond my time and some funny stories about the time," Warner told Sarah Penton, the host of CBC's Radio West. "They were able to reminisce with some of the names."

The earliest firefighter's name in chalk still visible in the old fire hall is G. Ollinger, who joined the team in 1966.

City of Prince George
City of Prince George

After consulting with the records, the fire service was able to dig up names that didn't appear on the old walls — including former fire chief Harold Dornbierer who served in the early 1950s — and the students added those, too.

Duchess Park arts teacher Jaime Rose, who led the project, says it's an educational experience for his students.

"They learned a lot about the [fire service's] connections to the community," Rose said.

Students were able to sign their names on the walls as well at the end of the 12-hour project.

City of Prince George
City of Prince George

According to the City of Prince George, new firefighters will use black paint to sign their names and dates of hire on the hose tower's walls.