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 502 times, 1 visits today)

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment



  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.