By Steve Hubrecht

One of the biggest fundraising events on the Columbia Valley calendar was back again last weekend, and it was quite literally larger than ever. 

The Invermere Fireman’s Ball is now 51 years old, but thanks to not being held in 2020 and 2021 (owing to COVID-19 restrictions), this year’s edition, which was held on Saturday, November 5, was the 49th annual version of the party.

It seems waiting for three years resulted in some pent-up demand as the Invermere fire department had a record crowd this year with 300 attendees, smashing the old record by a whopping 50 extra people.

“It went so well. It was so much fun,” Invermere firefighter, Janice Dallaire, told the Pioneer. 

Dallaire explained there was so much interest in the ball beforehand “we had to make more tickets, even though we were already sold out. And then we sold out of those extra tickets. And we still had people coming up and asking us for tickets.”

The previous attendance record for the ball was 250.

Dallaire theorized that the ball was a record breaker this year “because people know it’s always fun. They know it’s one of the best chances in town to dress up, and people love to dress up.”

The Fireman’s Ball this year featured many of the staple aspects that have made it popular in the past including dinner, a dance with a live band performing and a DJ, one of the biggest silent auctions in the valley, and the famous balloon pop.

“Most of our prizes were once again donated by local businesses, with a few from Calgary or elsewhere in B.C. There were so many prizes, I can’t even begin to estimate the value of donations we received. We are very grateful to the community.”

The ball is the Invermere fire department’s main fundraiser of the year, typically raising in the neighbourhood of $12,000 for the crew. With a much bigger crowd and people clearly in the mood to cut loose post COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s ball brought in far more than normal, with $16,000 raised.

“Usually we use the funds for our road rescue program, but this year it will be allocated to the structural protection unit we are trying to build,” explained Dallaire.

The structural protection unit is a vehicle outfitted with sprinklers, pumps and other equipment and is used in urban interface wildfires to prevent fire from spreading from the forest and brush to human-made structures. One such unit is capable of protecting as many as 60 homes at a time.

Dallaire outlined that this is the first of a planned three years of fundraising for the structural protection unit, which will cost about $200,000 once it’s complete.