About Us

Box 690 – Fire Department Canteen Association was officially approved by the Council of the City of Cambridge on 01 November 1988. Box 690 is modelled after Box 43 (Hamilton) and Box 12 (Toronto), fire rehab canteens which have been operating successfully for several decades. The name ”Box 690” comes from reference to the early fire alarm boxes which were scattered throughout the larger cities. By pulling a lever, the Fire Department Dispatch was instantly notified of an emergency and would send fire equipment to the area of the alarm. “Box -?-“ has become the frequent moniker for canteens. The numerical designation part is taken from the Cambridge Fire Department’s Radio System Identifier Code “XJI-690”; thus Box 690 was named.

Initially Box 690 served only the City of Cambridge. As word spread to other communities, Firefighter Rehab was provided to: Kitchener FD (1991), Waterloo FD (1992), and eventually all stations in North Dumfries (Ayr), Wilmot Township (Baden, New Dundee, New Hamburg), Wellesley Township (Linwood, St. Clements, Village of Wellesley), Woolwich Township (Elmira, St. Jacobs, Maryhill, Conestogo, Floradale, and Breslau).

Box 690 monitors fire dispatches in Waterloo Region twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. The box self-dispatches to reports of working fires or incidents where it is likely that our support would be beneficial. Cambridge and/or Kitchener will also dispatch Box 690 for special calls or on the rare occasion that the initial dispatch is not heard. Box 690 attends 80 to 120 calls for service per year. All Box members are volunteers who have a strong interest in the fire service.

Box 690 is a registered charity and is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. Supplies used at calls are provided at cost (and often less than cost). The canteen unit is supported and maintained by Kitchener FD Mechanical Division. Additional support is received from the Professional Fire Fighters Associations of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge and the Fire Fighters of North Dumfries, Wilmot, Wellesley, and Woolwich Townships.

Box 690 is an associate member of the Waterloo Region Mutual Aid Fire Services Association.

Delivering Rehab to Firefighters at Emergency Scenes

The Vans – 1988 to 1996 – The Early Years

the vans

In the early days, product and supplies were delivered to the scene of an incident by privately owned vehicles (POV). Since we started with two members who happened to have similar Toyota Vans (grey, beige) one or both showed up to serve the Firefighters. Cold drinks and snacks were kept in each van for speedy response and hot coffee was picked up on the way to calls as needed.

Photo: The Toyota vans with “Albert” on top, outfitted for the parade in celebration of 150years of the Cambridge FD. Vandals set fire to the vacant Jolly Jumper factory on Water St. which created a major incident which caused a halt to the scheduled program.


In 1995 the City of Cambridge donated a retired 1978 GMC Panel Van, which had served as a rescue and HazMat unit, to Box 690. It was retrofitted into a snack and drinks supply vehicle. It had a small counter for cooking and a bar sized refrigerator for water and Gatorade. Since there was no onboard generator, it required power from a rescue or alternate source for the coffee maker and electric fry pan for heating foods. It was a bit hard on the knees crawling around in the back and other than the front seats, there was limited space to shelter anyone. It was more convenient to have supplies on scene and thus an improvement to our service.


6901 was replaced by 6902, a retired 1982 International walk-in rescue truck, formerly in service as Kitchener Rescue #8 and later as Special Operations HazMat #1. It was overhauled into a mobile field kitchen which had its own generator for power. 6902 had space to shelter Firefighters inside in either hot (we had an air conditioner installed on the roof) or cold weather conditions. We now could provide lighting, clothing, and a greater variety of refreshments such as refrigerated water, juice, and Gatorade, hot coffee and hot chocolate, tea, hotdogs, chili, stew, soup, and small snack items  (granola bars, rice crispy squares, cookies, peanuts etc.) This was a large step forward for Box 690 as firefighter needs could now be better served. 6902 had air brakes so  training had to be taken and licenses needed to be upgraded for any member who was a driver.


6902 began to show its age and developed transmission problems. The availability of parts for this particular model was problematic and costs became prohibitive. Wilmot Township came to our aid by donating a low mileage rescue unit which was due for replacement. This rescue had first been in service with Waterloo FD, and then was sold to Wilmot Township and assigned to New Dundee Station as Rescue #27. This 1986, Dependable built, International was transformed into a “kitchen” and has proven to be a very practical replacement. 6903 has three bar sized refrigerators in outside compartments, 2 generators (3500 W and 5000 W), an electric cord reel (200 ft. extension), 2 – 10×10 pop-up shelters, 6 Core-Cooler chairs, a cooking counter, microwave oven, food storage cupboard, air conditioner, hand wash station, tables and chairs and other supplies (pet containment leads, heat gun, ice salt, cooling towels, first aid supplies, rope, tool kit, garbage and recycling supplies, safety vests, spare turnout coats, blankets, children’s Buddy Bears etc.)

One member of Box 690 works as an electrician and so designed and installed a convenient system of lighting and outlet plugs throughout the unit which makes cooking and sheltering much more effective and friendly.

6903 has repeatedly proven its worth as it has operated in the coldest, bitter, winter conditions:  one notable example is an incident requiring extended rehab at a January 2014 house fire on Industrial Drive in Ayr’s coverage area.

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