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Blast from the Past: Smoke Eaters and Firefighters, a proud shared history for Trail and Castlegar

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 28th, 2015

Castlegar deputy fire chief Sam Lattanzio was, this week, treated to a fun demonstration of the power of Kootenay connections – from past to present, Trail to Castlegar, Smoke Eaters to firefighters.

Lattanzio, who is originally from Trail, saw a video posted by a friend to his Facebook feed about the Trail Smoke Eaters and their two Amateur World Championships wins. It was a CBC piece by Peter Mansbridge from late last year, with photos and footage from back in 1961, when the Smokies returned from Russia triumphant and were paraded through town in the back of a fire engine (see https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10155109205425710&pnref=story ).

“You see the fire engine at exactly the five minute mark, and I asked the Chief (Castlegar fire chief Gerry Rempel) if he knew what kind of engine it was,” Lattanzio said. “He started recognizing stuff in the background right away.  ‘That’s Robson Point, and that’s Celgar, and that’s the ferry,’ he told me.”

As it turns out, the old clip was filmed in Castlegar – the team had landed at the Castlegar airport, taken the ferry over to the Castlegar side of the river (there was no bridge, then), and were paraded through Castlegar before being taken to the parade in Trail.

And, of course, the Chief knew a great deal about what kind of fire truck he was seeing.

“The engine was a 1952 Mercury Fire Engine, Castlegar’s very first brand-new engine,” Lattanzio said, adding he was more than a little startled when the Chief told him it was the same one sitting in the Fire Hall to this day, one of the department’s beloved antiques.

You can see Lattanzio in the attached picture, posing with the old ’52, which he delightedly says is still mechanically sound and stands as a symbol of the proud history shared by Castlegar and Trail.

Categories: General

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