Fire Walkers: Appendix Chapter 6 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on March 11th, 2011. Posted in Fire Department

Fire Walkers:  Appendix   Chapter 6 of 6

Personnel Lists for Cold Lake, Namao and ChurchillSac Crest

If you happen to read this story and know someone who worked for the Fire Walkers in the early sixties, I would like to add that person to one of the following lists. My contact numbers are listed below or you may simply post a note at the end of this Chapter.

Photo: Shoulder patch that was designed by one of the Fire Crew and worn on our civilian jackets. The fist with lightening bolts was taken from the Strategic Air Command Crest.

Over time I would like to include as many names as possible and post a short biography about each person, written either by the person named, by a friend or another Fire Walker or by someone from that persons extended family.  A list of names is provided below.

A picture of the training crew or of time spent at one of the three bases or future postings would also provide excellent background.


Harold McNeill
Victoria, BC
Phone:   250-479-7532
Face Book:   Harold McNeill or by the above email

Partial List of SAC Fire Fighters

1. Cold Lake Base including Biographies

Harold McNeill

Harold joined the Fire Walkers in Cold Lake in mid-1961 at the age of 20. In 1963 he transferred to Naval Station at Dockyard in Victoria, BC.  After working in the Dockyard and Naden divisions, he left the DND to join the Oak Bay Police Department in 1964. After 30 years and the rank of Detective Sergeant he retired from the Police Service in 1994. In retirement he went on to spend another 14 years volunteering with Sports Organizations at the Local, Provincial, National and International level.

In 2008 after having served three years as Chair of the Victoria venue of the U20 Men’s World Cup, he retired from volunteer service and began traveling with his wife of 25 years, Lynn McNeill (Davis).  Harold and Lynn have a blended family of four: Jay, living in Victoria; Kari and husband Ed, in Kamloops with their son Grayson; Christine and husband Chris, in Kamloops and, the youngest, Sean, in the Vancouver/Victoria.

Raymond Birn

In the fall of 1961 Raymond Birn, at the age of 20, attended the “Aircraft Crash Rescue Course” at Camp Borden, graduating on December 22, 1961. He was immediately hired on at the SAC Base in Cold Lake, Alberta, where he served until the tragic fire that burned down in the fall of 1962. He stayed on until he was transferred to SAC Base in Namao at the end of August 1963.   Before leaving Cold Lake he married Lucienne Lefebvre, daughter of Ben and Lillian Lefebvre of Cold Lake.

Not long after, Raymond transferred to the Edmonton International Airport, where he and his wife survived a very difficult time during two illegal strikes. There were a few noteable crashes that left an indelible on Raymond, one being a PWA transport loaded with cattle at Telford Lake near Leduc. There were several persons on board and non survived.

Raymond and Lucienne have two sons, Bryan, born in 1976 and Kevin, born in 1978.    Shortly after Bryan was born, Ray applied for a transfer to the Grande Prairie Regional Airport in Alberta, and was accepted for service July 1976. While serving there Raymond was promoted to Crew Chief. Raymond worked at Grand Prairie until the Government of Canada lay off all Crash Rescue Fire Fighters in May of 1995. With a fully paid up pension Raymond had 37 years of Fire Department service with the Canadian government.  Raymond and Lucienne, who have now been married for 48 years, live in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

Biographies needed for:
(Class Photos from Raymond Birn and Marcel Lirette posted below)

Morris Hill, to Dockyard in Victoria, BC then to the Esquimalt Police/Fire Department
Guy Venne, to Penticton International in Penticton, BC
Ed Valley stayed in Cold Lake, AB
Del Curtis  to Vancouver International in Richmond, BC
Henry Hoolihan  to Vancouver  top row fifth from left
Ken Eshelman to Vancouver   bottom row, third from left (looking sideways)
Les Eshelman to Vancouver   top tow, seventh in from the right
Doug Towns    bottom row, second from left
Don Dobranski   front row, second from right, to Namao
Karl Kessels
Gladwyn Young  top row, 12th from left
? Dewolf    top row, 14th from left
Raymond Birn  far left standing, to Namao
Jack Graham back row, 8th from the left  (either Graham or Les Eshelman)
Jimmy Martineau to Vancouver (Jimmy, you never could play ping pong and you are lucky you still have a index finger…)
Conrad Martineau to Namao
Roy MacDonald to Vancouver
Art Axani to Vancouver
Wally Armstrong
Richard Armstrong to Namao
Ben Kading
George Grimstead to Prince George International
Derek Bamber stayed in Cold Lake
Ray Bamber
Fred Bamber to Nanao
Rami Lirette stayed in Cold Lake
Marcel Lirette to Prince George, BC
Maurice Lefebvre to Namao
Danny Olsen
Jack Nicholson
??? Popyk  stayed in Cold Lake
Ron Swan  to Namao
Jack Graham to Namao
Ken Cuthbert to Namao
Harvey Sauers to Whitehorse
Claude Auger
Harvey Nelson  (believe to have ended up in Victoria)

2. Namao, Alberta

Clyde Palmer possibly to Namao

3. Churchill,  Manitoba


Camp Borden Instructors

Cpl Brekinridge  Training picture from Borden: Front row, sixth from right (no helmet)

Camp Borden Training Crew 1961A

I have not yet been able to track down a photograph of this crew. It would include Morris Hill, Guy Venne and myself, to name but a few. The class completed just before Class 1962B arrived at Camp Borden to commence their training.

Camp Borden Training Crew 1961B

Raymond Birn Class

Photo: Courtesy of Raymond Birn.  We have not been able to definitively name everyone in the photo.  The list above provides some clues.

Camp Borden Training Crew 1962A

CFR Course 1962a

Camp Borden Training Crew 1962a.  Photo Courtesy of Marcel Lirette. Signatures from back of photo posted below.

Course 1962a

Participants Signatures for SAC Course: Camp Borden 1962a.


(Visited 341 times, 1 visits today)

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment



  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.