October 7, 2010

Thibault Fire Trucks

Contributed by Marilyn Thibault
The history of the Canadian fire truck industry and the name Thibault go hand in hand. From humble beginnings in rural Quebec, the Thibault family created a dynasty in fire truck manufacture in the province. Although Pierre Thibault Fire Trucks is no longer in operation today, the name Thibault is still found throughout fire departments across Canada and around the world.

In 1908, Charles Thibault started building hand pumps in Saint-Robert Quebec. After a few years, he moved his operation to the nearby city of Sorel, where he built a variety of horse-drawn apparatus, some mounted on sleighs for winter use in small communities in Quebec. In 1918, he built his first motorised unit, a Ford for Campbellton, New Brunswick. The twenties were apparently a quiet time for the company and the Great Depression didn't help matters. In 1938, Charles' son Pierre took over the operation and moved it to Pierreville, Quebec.

During the Second World War, the company was extremely busy building crash tenders, trailer pumps and hose fittings for the Canadian government. After the war ended, the company expanded its efforts in selling fire trucks to municipalities. It started building its own line of pumps, similar to Hale pumps. In 1950, Thibault introduced a custom chassis (known as the WIT - likely an acronym) and the first unit, a pumper, was sold to Valleyfield, Quebec. A cab-forward version (the AWIT - the "A" may stand for "avant," French for "forward") came in 1957 or 1958. In 1960, an aerial ladder was introduced. In a 1963 ad, Thibault boasted of the strength of its aerial by hanging a sling containing a Volkswagen Beetle from the tip. Fire departments appreciated this feature and this new product became very popular. In addition to aerial trucks built by the company in Pierreville, many aerial assemblies were supplied to American builders where they became part of new ladder trucks for communities large and small. For many years, Thibault was one of the few, if not only, Canadian company that could claim the complete manufacture of vehicles from start to finish - pumps, chassis and aerial ladders. Most Canadian apparatus manufacturers tend to assemble components purchased elsewhere. By the end of the 1950s, Thibault apparatus was spread across Canada. The 60s saw considerable expansion into the U.S. market and some sales in the Caribbean and Latin America. http://thibault-fire-engines.com/
We are related to these Thibault's through Guillaume Thibault and  Marie-Madeleine Lefrancois,  ancestors of Delia Beaulieu.