In 1939 our fore fathers started a volunteer A.R.P. (Air Raid Patrol) along the shores of Lake Ontario from the Hamilton Canal to Van Wagners Beach.
In 1941, the A.R.P. was disbanded and the Burlington Beach Volunteer Fire Department was born. The Fire Marshall’s Office in Toronto officially recognized this volunteer fire department in 1941. In those years the beach strip was a separate community that was managed by the “Beach Commission”. This group was comprised of a manager, secretary, and seven volunteer commissionaires who would oversee their own Police Department, Fire Department, and Public Works Department. The Beach Commission reported and answered directly to the Ontario Provincial Politicians in Toronto. The beach strip was a closely-knit community in those days and still is today.
In 1956, the City of Hamilton annexed the beach strip and we became part of the City of Hamilton. The City Fire Department took over our volunteer fire department and the active volunteers still wanting to stay together decided to form the Hamilton Beach Rescue Unit. They were all trained in first aid, water rescue, and used two twelve foot dinghy’s to rescue swimmers in the summer and ice bank rescues in the winter.
In May of 1957, the Hamilton Beach Rescue Unit was founded and started with one borrowed and one rented boat and motor. They patrolled every Saturday, Sunday and Monday holidays from May until September, but were on call to answer any emergency 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As the years past, they were able to purchase bigger and better boats capable of handling the storms and rough waters of Lake Ontario.
Those dedicated Volunteers ran a small carnival, sold tickets, ran ham and turkey raffles and raised money to cover the expenses of the unit. Sometimes the members had to dig into their own pockets and donate money to cover the outstanding bills.
Somehow we survived those lean days and in 1965, we approached the City of Hamilton and asked for some financial assistance to help cover our operating expenses. The City agreed but the unit was still responsible for raising their own capital funds for purchasing new boats, equipment, and a vehicle to tow the boats to the launch area. Only with a lot of hard work and dedication by these volunteers, have we been able to build and progress the unit to meet today’s standards and community’s requirements.
Over the past 50 years we have saved many lives and have assisted hundreds of boaters in trouble on the Lake and in Hamilton Bay.
In order to expand out training, better serve the boating community and other water recreational public, we joined forces with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. For over 15 years our volunteers have worked in co-operation with the Canadian Coast Guard to receive training in such courses as C.P.R, First Aid, Hypothermia, Boating, Boat Inspections, Search and Rescue Tactics, V.H.F Radio, Radar, Towing, and G.P.S. operation.
Although we receive an operating grant and some capital monies, we still have to raise additional funds to meet the capital project needs of the organization. The City of Hamilton and the Ontario Trillium Foundation have both donated funds toward some of our recent major capital projects. We are very grateful for their support, which has enabled us to purchase a new boat, towing vehicle, and commence renovations of our training hall.
In 2004 with great assistance from The City of Hamilton and the Ontario Trillium Foundation we were able to purchased a new 22 foot Limestone to help us keep up to date with the current rescue needs and assist in keeping our volunteers safe while performing rescues.
Early in 2008 we were able to complete our new boat storage facility including computer and radio contact with the Coastguard and Hamilton Marine Police. We replaced our 1950’s dinghy trailer with a new trailer constructed with 2008 standards along with two 9.9 Honda outboard motors. We replaced a aged, leaking Zodiac with a new 18’ Zodiac to assist with training and rescues on the Lake, in the Bay and surrounding waters of Hamilton.
In September of 2008 we celebrated our 50th Anniversary of The Hamilton Beach Rescue Unit with an open house where we showcased all of our equipment to the community, local Politicians, and other Rescue Units in our area.
The members of The Hamilton Beach Rescue Unit Inc. are a group of well-trained, dedicated volunteers who risk their lives on a regular basis to save lives of fellow citizens using our community waters in the Hamilton Area.
William Dean ~ November 23, 2008
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