Salmon Arm Museum Salmon Arm Fire Brigade 1939, with George Shirley wearing bow tie, third from right in back row.

Celebrating Shuswap history

Okanagan History annual report features Shirley family.

Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley’s roots are deep in the community, as is the family’s service to structural fire protection.

A couple years ago, Brad wrote about the family for a presentation to the Okanagan Historical Society.

The society then invited him to contribute the story to the 81st annual Okanagan History, which has just been published.

“It was interesting writing; we learned a few things about our family and it made us very proud,” Brad says of his sister Pam and brothers Jim and Greg. “Our dad was involved in lots of things in the community up until the time he passed away, and so was our granddad.”

He says his dad loved the community, had a great memory, knew a lot of people and was involved in creating the garage and firehall at R.J. Haney Heritage Village.

The Shirley’s Salmon Arm family saga began in March 1913, when Pat’s father, George, arrived from England, becoming a charter member of the fire brigade in December of that year.

“This was the beginning of the family’s long record of service to the community, spanning more than a century and several generations,” wrote Brad in Okanagan History.

It is a dedicated service that continues to this day.

George’s involvement in the community went well beyond the firehall. He was active with fall fair, the board of trade, St. John’s Anglican Church, the Elks and Orange Lodges, the police commission and several sports organizations.

Brad’s father, Pat, dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the fire department, as master mechanic, assistant chief and chief of firehall 3. He was chief of all halls during a transition between chiefs in the 1980s and deputy chief and fire prevention officer until his retirement in 1989.

Before joining the fire department, Pat had discovered another passion that has also been passed down – mechanical abilities and a love of automobiles.

“His first car was a non-running Model T which he dragged home,” writes Brad. “He tore down the engine and had it running in short order.”

Like his father, Pat did not push the prospect of firefighting on his sons. But, in 1976, Jim joined, is current captain of Hall 3 and is the longest running captain in the fire department.

Brad joined in 1982 and has been fire chief since Ken Tebo retired in 2006. Another brother, Greg, retired after a 20-year career with the department.

In his early 20s, Brad looked at career firefighting outside of Salmon Arm.

“But, I always came back; I realized how much this was home,” he says.

Brad says the history on his mother’s side is every bit as important to his family. June Lidstone was born on Grandview Bench on what is now known as Lidstone Road.

“After dad’s passing, we found lots of treasures and all of us have them on display in our homes,” he says, noting both his parents were very involved in community. “It gives a nice sense of continuation.”

There is much more to learn about the Shirley family in the 81st Okanagan History, which is now available,

Every year since 1926, the Okanagan Historical Society publishes an annual report, a collection of stories and histories of Okanagan personalities, institutions and events.

In Salmon Arm, the book is available at The Book Nook, Hidden Gems, Bookingham Palace or by sending an email to okhistorysa@gmail.com.

With the purchase of this report, readers become a member of the society.