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Early Kenmore Fire Protection: Volunteers to the Rescue

From “Kenmore By the Lake, A Community History”

A century ago, Kenmore was a small community at the north end of Lake Washington with a population estimated at 150 persons, most of whom lived in more-or-less unfinished houses on acreage tracts. Business was represented mainly by eating houses, a couple of service stations, a garage, a grocery store, a sawmill, a lumber and hardware store, and a fruit stand.

By the early 1930s, the area began to develop, with a rapid growth in population. New homes were being built in the Moorlands and Linwood Heights areas, and fire protection became a concern.

Until 1940, major commercial fire losses had been the S.E. Hitsman Dance Hall in the spring of 1919, the Inglewood Country Club building in 1924, and the McMaster mill in 1928. Comparatively few house fires had occurred. In most of the local fires, the buildings were destroyed because of lack of water and local firefighting apparatus. Kenmore was entirely dependent upon the fire department in Bothell or, by the late 1930s, the King County fire truck located at Redmond, fifteen miles away.

Concerned about the need for better fire protection, the Kenmore Community Club instructed president Frank Telquist to circulate a petition for creation of a fire protection district. On September 22, 1942, voters approved the idea of a fire district, which was officially established as King County Fire Protection District 16.

The newly organized volunteer fire district elected commissioners Ray Pringle, Bob Smeltzer, and Eliot Peterson. The volunteers began practicing with portable firefighting equipment. A retired Seattle fireman, Bill Bailey, joined the department and contributed much time and effort during the next few years training the volunteers.

The Kenmore and Bothell fire departments signed a mutual-aid agreement in which each would stand by for the other if needed.

The department’s first fire truck, with its six-hundred-gallon water tank, was loaned to the fledgling district by King County and housed in a former service station at 7016 Bothell Way. An air horn was mounted on the building to summon volunteers to a fire call or emergency.

In the early years of Fire District 16, the Kenmore Community Club staged an annual Firemen’s Ball, with members and firemen volunteers selling tickets for one dollar each. The Firemen’s Ball was held at Bert Lindgren’s Dance Hall until it burned down in 1956, then at Inglewood Country Club. Many residents purchased tickets just for the privilege of attending an event at the country club.

Ticket proceeds supported the Volunteer Association and allowed it to purchase items the fire department budget couldn’t provide. For example, the fund-raiser and other events netted $5,400 by 1943, enough to purchase a Ford fire engine.

 

Photo courtesy of Kenmore Fire Department

The Kenmore Fire Department displays a variety of equipment in the late 1950s at its first station, located at 67th Avenue NE and NE 181st Street. The vehicles are (left to right) the “whoopee wagon,” a 1954 Ford panel truck remodeled as an aid unit, a 1944 Mercury ladder truck, a 1949 Ward LaFrance ladder truck, and the department’s newest vehicle, a 1955 Mac pumper truck.

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