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An era of protecting Sequim: Fire district marks 100 years
Clallam County Fire District 3 centennial celebration
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 9; downtown Sequim parade plus events (music, antique fire trucks, demonstrations) at The James Center for the Performing Arts
Also: 8 p.m., “Burning Down the House” party at 7 Cedars Casino (21 and older)
More information: Call 683-4242 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A century ago, if you were a resident living north of what we now call Sequim — somewhere near Dungeness, for example — and your home caught fire, you were likely in for a long night.
Back then, an all-volunteer crew of firefighters would travel with fire suppression equipment — the first, a 40-gallon chemical engine and hose cart pulled by as many as eight men — north along rutted roads and at some point cross the Dungeness River.
Steve Vogel, fire chief for the Sequim-area Clallam County District 3 and a self-admitted history hound, says that’s why it’s not surprising Dungeness burned down a couple of times in the 1920s and 1930s.
How times have changed.
“There is so much history (to the department),” says Steve Chinn, District 3 volunteer captain and co-chairman of the fire district’s centennial party set for Saturday, Aug. 9. “That’s what motivated him to do this.”
For the public, Saturday’s festivities get started with a parade right down Washington Street, starting with the Snohomish County Fire District No. 7 Honor Guard and Pipes and Drums and featuring more than 20 in-use and antique fire trucks from Oregon and British Columbia as well as from various cities and towns in Washington.
The parade route is from Fifth Avenue and Washington Street through downtown Sequim to Brown Road, where engines and other fire district folks head to the James Center.
Following the parade, the community is invited to visit the antique engines and enjoy music, food, children’s activities and vendors at the James Center for the Performing Arts, just north of Carrie Blake Park. Music acts include Sequimarimba, Locos Only (featuring Sequim musician Kevin Magner) and band Black Rock.
Activities at the band shell, scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m., also feature a visit by the Airlift Northwest medical helicopter at 1 p.m.
Fire officials do plan to honor local fire chiefs in the area including Vogel and former chiefs Lawrence Kettel and Tom Lowe.
A dance party at 7 Cedars Casino — aptly/ironically named “Burning Down the House” — is set for 9 a.m.-midnight.
Commemorative T-shirts, hoodies and other items will be on sale at the event.
Setting the stage
Last October, as the City of Sequim was in the midst of its own year-long centennial party, Vogel approached Chinn and Jeff Albers about cooking up a fire district celebration to mark 100 years of service.
“We kind of threw things around,” Chinn recalls. “We weren’t sure about tackling something like this.”
Sequim fire officials contacted Canadian firefighters in Hudson Bay after they threw a 150th anniversary bash.
“We were trying to think of how that would apply to small-town Sequim; that kind of gave us a footprint,” Chinn says.
“Boy, did the ideas fly,” Vogel says, considering the events lined up for Saturday.
“I think the whole day will be a highlight,” he says.
And though the party does feature several fire engines from out of the area, Chinn says the event will have a distinctly local feel.
“It’s a local event,” he says. “It’s us.”
According to Vogel, the first known fire service began on March 11, 1914, when Sequim’s town council and citizens decided to organize a volunteer fire company and bucket brigade.
On July 1 of that year, the city purchased a fire bell from Graham Fire Apparatus Co. for the sum of $25.50. The bell was installed in the belfry of the new 1914 Sequim City Hall located on Cedar Street.
The bell, Vogel notes, was used not only for notifying the community of a fire but also to indicate a curfew bell to notify children to get off the street according to a city ordinance.
Sequim Fire Company’s first fire suppression apparatus was a man-powered 40 gallon chemical engine and a hose cart.
From 1914-1948, the Sequim Fire Department’s coverage area was what now looks like Fire District 3’s boundaries; the Sequim Fire Brigade responded west to the Deer Park area and east into Gardiner community.
“Back then, those were good firefighters — they didn’t have bunker gear,” Vogel says. The core roster of the department, he says, rarely changed between the 1920s and 1960s.
Over the past 100 years the fire service has progressed from the horse and wagon to gas-powered fire engines; from drafting water out of an irrigation ditch to flowing water from fire hydrants; from no first aid to Advanced Life Support medical care. (Chinn says as many as 86 percent of calls the district responds to are aid calls).
Vogel says he’s excited to see so many out-of-town folks help fete the district’s centennial.
“It really speaks to the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters,” Vogel says.
See redlightsirens.com, call 683-4242, e-mail email@example.com or stop by District 3’s Sequim headquarters at 323 N. Fifth Ave. for more information.
Note: If residents have any old pieces of fire protection apparatus, they are urged to call the fire department at 683-4242 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.