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Discussion Groups: Brandon History

Topic: The Olympia Café Fire
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4/3/2009 10:44:14 PM
Member since:
Jan 2006
Total posts:1475
The Olympia Café Fire

April 6 is the 56th anniversary of Brandon's Olympia Café fire and the death of fire fighter Frederick J Brown. Some sources say that he's Brandon's only fireman to be killed in the line of duty - some say there were others, though I have not seen a reference.  
The Olympia, originally a Bank of British North America, was located at 10th and Rosser and was Brandon's largest eatery. The fire broke out at 1:20 in the afternoon, so loss of life could have been much greater.  
According to the 7 April 1953 Free Press Brown was “...trapped in the basement of the building housing the Olympia Café during the early stages of the fire and the blaze spread so quickly that the other members of the brigade could not reach him”.  
Brown left behind a wife and 6 grown children.  
Here's a photo of the fire:  
Here's an overhead photo of the intersection from Hillman's Archives  
For whatever reason Brown has never been commemorated as a Fallen Fire Fighter either at the Winnipeg Memorial in Brookside Cemetery or nationally in Ottawa">">  
A couple of years back when I did the 125 History Quiz I emailed one of the organizations information and they said that he would be up for nomination but it had to be the Local that nominated him. I guess nothing ever came of it because he's not on the 2009 list.  
I will re-send the information. If anyone has a contact in the fire department maybe mention this to them. Seems only fair to have him recognized.  
Edited by mrchristian, 2009-04-03 22:47:23

Shirley Booth

4/6/2009 7:32:35 AM
Member since:
Feb 2007
Total posts:3225
This was a big fire:

All the Fire Fighters on night shift were called to Duty with every available Police Officer deployed to control the many hundreds of spectators that had gathered to observe the fire. Fireman Fredrick Brown lost his life while attempting to rescue a tenant from the apartment.  
The Assurance Agents Association called for an inquiry into the Fire Departments equipment and competence. This application was approved after the Aldermanic group had read the report from the Fire Commissioners Office on the Olympia Café fire. The report stated that the ‘Smoke Masks’ used during the Olympia ordeal were “apparently not the proper type for the conditions found in this fire, and may have contributed to Firefighter Fred Brown’s death.” The Breathing Mask’s canister would offer no protection against Carbon Monoxide poisoning, and a Post Mortem Autopsy revealed an eighty percent gas content in the deceased victims blood.  


4/6/2009 10:10:09 AM
Member since:
Apr 2009
Total posts:192
I got chills...

It's amazing that after all this time that someone would remember him and try to bring honor to his name. It's actually quite moving! Good luck in trying to get him the recognition he rightly deserves for being the hero that he is!!


4/6/2009 11:25:57 AM
Member since:
Jul 2006
Total posts:705
Was the name of Mr. Brown's wife.....

A Frederick Joseph Brown and Agnes Brown are listed on the Certificate of Title for our house. He is listed as a 'Fireman'. His death is also recorded on it.  
I almost jumped outta my skin when I read this posting on him. Thank you for bringing his name forward, mrchristian.


4/6/2009 1:45:24 PM
Member since:
Jan 2006
Total posts:1475

You live in his house - that's interesting !  
The children listed in the article were all living in other cities - Vancouver, Hamilton etc. so I am not sure if any direct descendants would be in and around Brandon.  
I contacted the Fallen Fire Fighter Foundation who maintain the national list / monument and they confirmed he is not listed. I sent a copy of the newspaper article and they said that he definitely would fit the bill.  
Just sending the form in now - hopefully he will be listed next year - they have an annual ceremony on Parliament Hill to induct members.  
In the pics section I posted his photo.

Princess Blueberry

4/6/2009 2:45:12 PM
Member since:
Oct 2008
Total posts:246

That is great of you to do that!  
Keep us posted on the outcome......


4/6/2009 4:07:50 PM
Member since:
Jan 2006
Total posts:1475

Will do !  
Magic - it just says in the article survived by his widow and children.  
Robert - thanks for the additional info. The fire also burned out one of Brandon's two fire trucks. There was a fire the following month in the downtown and damage was worse that it could have been, according to the article, because only one of the two Brandon Fire Brigade pumpers was in service !


4/6/2009 4:16:42 PM
Member since:
Nov 2007
Total posts:2734

It's a wonderful thing you're doing for this fallen fire fighter. I hear and read about so many negative things people do and this one thing just makes me think that there's hope. Thanks.

Bomber fan

4/9/2009 12:41:48 AM
Member since:
Dec 2007
Total posts:49
Great Job!

I saw your story and I mentioned it to a friend who is a Firefighter, he just got back to me tonight and said that the Local firefighter Association is in the process of putting Mr. Browns and another Firefighters name forward to the Canadian Fallen Firefighter memorial. The Firefighter did tell me that the names are currently on the Firefighters Memorial in Colorado Springs.


4/9/2009 1:11:21 AM
Member since:
Jan 2006
Total posts:1475

That's good to know.

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