“Best of Aylmer 2014,” City agrees
Gatineau celebrates Aylmer’s fire department
Gatineau’s municipal archives team is completing an exhibit celebrating Aylmer’s fire department, past and present. The exhibit will tour all five municipal fire halls and come to Aylmer’s Roland Guertin station on Wilfrid-Lavigne Boulevard in the fall of 2015.
Firefighters have played a vital role in Aylmer’s history because fires have played such a detrimental role in Aylmer’s past, from the Great Fire of 1921 to the 2005 Plaza Glenwood blaze, which destroyed more than 40 stores, and the burning of St Paul’s Church.
The Great Fire of 1921 was ignited, according to historian Diane Aldred, by hot stove ashes emptied into dry grass, and it destroyed much of Old Aylmer.
“Fanned by a wind which increased in strength as the fire grew, the flames were driven in a northeasterly direction through the heart of town, cutting a swath of destruction two blocks wide and almost a mile long. Loss of personal property totaled $750,000,” wrote Aldred. In 2015 terms, that would represent over $9 million in damages.
Fire has also plagued Saint Paul’s Church. As many remember, the newly completed church is the fourth to be built. The first was erected in 1840, before another one saw the day in 1862. Fire destroyed the second church, but Aylmer’s Catholic community built a third St Paul’s in 1894. Remarkably, lightning and a subsequent fire damaged the third church, which was repaired in 1905. The building was spared until 2009 when a fire ravaged the heritage structure. Several years later, worshippers entered today’s modern church, equipped with sprinklers, just before Easter, 2015.
Chief Roland Guertin
Aylmer firefighters relied on everyone’s efforts over the years, but former Fire Chief Roland Guertin still stands out.
According to city records, Guertin was Aylmer’s volunteer firefighter chief between 1956 and 1984. He worked for the Canadian International Paper Company, before working full-time with the former City of Aylmer.
Guertin was instrumental in improving the fire brigade’s equipment. He helped switch the squad’s wooden ladders to metal ones and acquired a modern water pump. During his term, the department had an enviable record, controlling the majority of blazes. Chief Guertin retired before the 2005 $30 million Plaza Glenwood fire.
Today, Aylmer’s fire station, which is the second oldest in the city, after the James-John O'Farrell Station in Gatineau, bears Chief Guertin’s name.
In recognition of the local squad’s work, citizens voted Aylmer’s firefighters as “Activists of the Year” for 2014, in the Bulletin’s “Best of Aylmer” voting.