History of the King County Fire Protection District #25
Excerpts from The Fire Districts of King County, by Harold “Jiggs” Hoyt:
In 1904, the Lake Washington ferry Fortuna made round trips on the lake delivering freight and people from Atlantic Park at Rainier Beach to Bryn Mawr, the Garden of Eden (Kennydale), Bellevue, Kirkland and back to Rainier Beach. Besides Rainier Beach and Bryn Mawr, all the other towns were dependent on water travel or the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway that ran an occasional train along the shoreline on the east side of the lake.
Kennydale was a logging town and also an outlet in early days for the mines of Newcastle which made for very little industry when coal production slowed down. The area became more or less a bedroom community when platted into the Lake Washington Gardens of Eden development by C.D. Hillman, growing slowly but steadily.
After a number of fires, concerned citizens thought fire protection was needed, but outside of the old buckets and wet gunny sacks there was not much done. This procedure went on for years until the middle of the war in 1943 when the neighborhood got up in arms after losing several residences, plus the leading church and parsonage of the area.
On November 9, 1944, a mass meeting was held at the Kennydale School building to discuss fire protection and elect officers to start a volunteer fire department. Chief Wood of Renton and Chief Scott Walls of Bryn Mawr kindly offered assistance. C.J. D’Hooghe was elected chief, 18 volunteers were signed up and the Department had a good start. On December 17th nine more volunteers signed up.
The Department was still in the early stages when petitions were passed around and sent to the County Commissioners. An election was held April 19, 1945, and King County Fire District 25 was created in June by a vote of 139 to 6. C.J. D’Hooghe, Paul Hunt and Sam Elder were elected Commissioners. Six other citizens competed for the positions. Before the ink was dry on the County resolution, Sam Elder had to resign as Commissioner and Phil DeGues was appointed to fill the position. The volunteers couldn’t wait to get into the main stream of the fire business, and joined the Washington State Firemen’s Association. In march 1946, the firemen also joined the Puget Sound Firemen’s Association. Chief D’Hooghe and five other members were elected officers.
The Chief legally donated and transferred the deed to a building lot for the new fire hall in September 1945 and in October ground was broken. Building construction was delayed for a time because of a lumber strike. With nothing but a name, District #25 fought their first official fire in October 1945 in Mr. Sherman’s hen house. As the fire truck had not yet arrived a wheelbarrow and garden hoses were used very satisfactorily with little damage incurred. Hoses were used again on a shed fire when everyone brought hose, laid out 300 feet, the water was turned on, but a number of hoses sprung leaks. The bystanders held their hands over the holes and the shack fire was conquered. These small fires attracted a lot of attention and also motivated a number of locals to become volunteers.
The new Commissioners scraped together enough cash for materials for a fire hall, which was erected by volunteer labor, firemen and builders in the community. A siren was erected on the roof of the new building and alarms were received by the adjacent neighbors, Mr. and Ms. Ault, who used their personal phone number as a fire phone.
Two surplus trucks were purchased from Renton and delivered when the fire hall was to be completed by the end of March. The two trucks, a 1923 Lincoln converted from a limousine to a fire truck for Renton by Preibe Brothers, local blacksmiths; and a GMC engine arrived on the 20th and was immediately used on a large brush fire in Hazelwood, just to the north of Kennydale.
Some of Kennydale’s homes fronted on Lake Washington and it was feared problems would arise with waterfront related fires and accidents. When delivered, the Kennydale navy boat was moored at the Barbee Mill. After much discussion, it was decided the District could not afford to purchase the boat and it was returned to the Navy and the deposit refunded.
The Kennydale firemen were training and getting the feel of the GMC and the 1923 Lincoln fire engines. Not too much happened until August 19, 1946, when a call came in from the north end of the District. When the engines arrived, the house was fully involved in fire caused by a furnace explosion. Chief D’Hooghe saved two adjoining homes with minimal damage, but the main home was a total loss. District #25 had their first mutual aid call when Bellevue arrived and gave them assistance.
It seemed incidents occurred in groups. On Wednesday, August 24th, at 10 p.m. a call came in that a nearby church was on fire. It was fully involved with flames 200 feet in the air when the crew arrived. Reports came in from across the lake from Bryn Mawr. Earlington, Lakeridge, and even Seattle. The following Tuesday, July 30th, a one-room house had a good start before the alarm was received and it burned to the ground. These fire losses were primarily due to improper notification, so the firemen took steps to correct the problem. In September of that year, 3000 phone stickers with the emergency phone number were purchased and distributed to the community.
The age of first aid arrived when the department purchased an Emerson resuscitator. The Chief required all volunteers to take eighteen hours of Red Cross instruction to become proficient with their new automated machine. One of the local citizens contributed substantially toward the purchase of this life-saving piece of equipment.
Mr. and Mrs. Ault, who lived next door to the fire station, notified the District they could no longer answer the fire phone they had been paying for for 4 years. In appreciation, the volunteers built a fence between the headquarters station and the Aults. The routine was changed, the firemen were to stand watch in the evenings until a new procedure was instituted.
The communities to the north of Kennydale (Hazelwood, Honeydew, Hillcrest and Newport) were without fire protection, so a citizen’s committee petitioned District #25 for annexation. A vote was taken and on July 26, 1948, they became part of King County Fire District #25. A few able-bodied Hazelwood men signed up with Kennydale and were integrated in the department. The District furnished the volunteers at Hazelwood with bunker equipment and they had a truck in Station #2 at South 112th St. and SE 168th St for a short while.
In January, 1949, the Hazelwood station got their baptism of fire, a residential fire that was a total loss of $10,000. Even though they worked hard, the fire had a good start. In February, Hazelwood personnel propositioned the Commissioners to change the name of the department as an incentive to recruit more volunteers from the area.
In July, the Kennydale Lions Club presented the Kennydale/Hazelwood Fire Department with two charcoal-type gas masks and the firemen bought two more out of their fund. Kennydale used them when they gave mutual aid to Renton on a house fire in Honeydew that was lost due to lack of water.
In June, 1950, Fire District #25 expanded when the people south of Kennydale obtained sufficient signatures on petitions and the area was annexed to District 25. An area large enough for a three bay station, Station #3 was completed but there was no room for the old Lincoln, so it was sold to LouisMisner for a bid of $40. A new 1948 H-C Ford pumper was purchased and put in service with Bob Denny as section chief.
Bob purchased bunker outfits for his crew, attacked two fires in District #10 with his new firefighters and equipment and the commissioners billed District #10 $25 per call for the service as there was no active station operating in the Coalfield area. District #10 paid the bill.
The biggest event in the District’s history, before and since, happened Sunday morning at 1030 hours on September 22nd, 1957. There was a fire at the large Barbee Mill plant located on the shores of Lake Washington in the center of Kennydale. When the first rig came over the hill, a call for “HELP” was put out over the new radio and in turn, Renton alerted everyone that they could reach to send all available equipment. Word went around and before long the departments of White Center, Burien, SpringGlen, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Bryn Mawr and others answered the call; most stayed all afternoon until the last flicker of flame was out.