Fireguard School No. 3679

Fireguard School - taken in 1918. Located on Fireguard Road, 8 1/2 miles west of highway. 1918-1939.

To reach the site of Fireguard School from Champion, go West 7 miles on Highway 529, turn South on Range Road 251 for 2 miles, turn west on Township Road 150 (Fireguard Road) for 1/2 mile. Latitude 50.22271, Longitude -113.33263 This school was established on May 9, 1918. It was located on the NE quarter of 34-14-25-W4.

Prior to 1905, a fireguard was plowed across the country for the prevention of prairie fires. The “fireguard” was a strip of land about one rod wide. They were usually placed 12 miles apart. One such fireguard extended from Snake Valley west to the Stavely area. Once a fire started, it could consume miles of prairie and all that was on it, leaving behind only devastation.

In 1906, a prairie fire started by the Washington School and swept northeast to the river, burning everything in sight. It came close to the Long house. A system of fireguards was set up, the road going by the Longs became the Fireguard road running east and west from the Little Bow River. This name was still commonly used in 2010.

The Fireguard school committee was formed in 1918, and the school was built on land purchased from Mr. J. Burnett (now Clayton Sletto’s farm). At that time, schools were required to have a 20’ (or about one rod) wide fireguard plowed around the school property. School opened in January, 1919, with Mrs. Orrie Sommers (Miss Hill) as teacher and E. F. Crawford, John Archibald and Guy Voisey as members of the school board. Later teachers were Miss McIvor (Mrs. Brown McDonald), Janet Anderson, H. Poirier, Augusta McNaughton, Miss Ehall, V. Wellman, Mr. Atkinson, a returned man, and Molly Bastin.

Among the earliest students attending Fireguard School were members of the Daub family; Clara, Annnetta, Clayton, Wilfred, and Irvine. Irvine Daub tells of an ideal teacher for children whose favorite subject was recess. It seems when Mr. A. would ring the bell to summons the end of recess, the older boys would ignore the bell and continue to play ball. Possibly Mr. A.’s motto was “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, for pretty soon he would come out and play ball with them. Chasing rabbits was the best exercise they could get, and again the ringing bell would be ignored.

In 1928, Oscar Sletto bought the Jim Burnett farm, N 34-14-25, on which the Fireguard School was located. He and Fay had three children: Clayton, Evelyn and Robert. Clayton started school in 1925. The Fireguard School was closed that year, as there were too few children to attend. He rode saddle horse at first to the Bow Valley School which was five and one-half miles away. Later that year he went to Spokane, Washington where he went to school until the spring of 1927, when he came back. The Fireguard School was open then and he attended it until Grade 10.

The early teachers boarded with Blachleys, Archibalds, or Burnetts. In the early 30’s a teacherage was built by John Pharis. This building was sold when the school closed, and was moved to Champion. It is west of the highway, across from the elevators, on the property now owned by DeCon Pitcher.

When the Fath children were in their teens, the boys banded together to form a fine softball team, “The Fighting Faths”. Many Sunday afternoons saw lively games at the Fireguard School yard. In winter, a Fath hockey team won some recognition.

At times there was a shortage of teachers. It was hard to get young people to come to the rural areas, so often a higher wage had to be offered. If no teacher could be found, the school would have to temporarily close. Fireguard School District worried so much about not being able to find another teacher that it threatened legal action against one woman who refused to fulfill her contract.

When the larger school divisions were formed about 1939, this school became part of the Macleod School Division and was closed. The few pupils were vanned to the Alston school. The building was sold later and moved to the Stavely district.

Some excerpts from the Fireguard school board minutes:

August 13, 1918 – An approximate estimate was made of the cost of erecting the school and forwarded to the Department of Education as follows:

  • school site-3 acres at $75 an acre =$225.00
  • improving the same =                      125.00
  • outbuildings =                                  150.00
  • schoolhouse =                                1700.00
  • equipment =                                     500.00
  • well, drilled =                                  300.00

Total =     $3,000.00

Oct. 23, 1918 -Two tenders for the erecting of the school house were received. Mr. Charles Rock’s tender was accepted.

January 10, 1919 – The following buildings to be erected on the school site were decided upon: two toilets, 6’ by 6’. Two openings in seat. Painted same as school. Stable – 16’ by 24’, on cement foundation.

August 3, 1925 – Moved that they do not reopen school until such time as there are sufficient children to justify opening it.

June 19, 1935 – Moved to reduce the teacher’s salary to $800 and the use of the teacherage and coal for same be given for janitor work by the teacher. At the same meeting, it was decided that, as funds were low, no improvements were decided on, except to cultivate trees.

September 30, 1938 – moved that the teacher be allowed ten dollars to secure books for the school library. At the same meeting, the chairman was advised to speak to the teacher about the care of scribblers, drawing pads and glue.

More information about Fireguard School may be found in the books, “Cleverville Champion 1905 to 1970” and “Champion and District School Reunion 1906-1961,” at the Vulcan and District Archives and from school directories (maps and driving directions) which are available at the Village of Champion Office, the Champion Pioneer Club and the Vulcan & District Museum.

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