The Wenatchee Fire Department was organized by volunteers in 1895, at which time the City had a population of about 500 people. J. Edward Ferguson was appointed the City's first Fire Chief. A hand-drawn hose reel with a few hundred feet of 2 1/2" hose and an open pipe constituted the City's only firefighting facilities. Within the next year the City purchased a 40-gallon hand-drawn chemical soda and acid piece of equipment. In discussing the question of Wenatchee's early Fire Department with Chief Ferguson, he stated that when the City Fathers purchased the hand-drawn chemical rig he thought he had the world by the tail. Chief Ferguson served the City as Fire Chief for several years before being appointed Chief of Police.
Following Chief Ferguson, the following men served the City as Chief of the Volunteer Brigade: Chas. E. Harlin, Ray Woodruff, W.H. Little, and Frank Baker. Chiefs Ferguson, Harlin and Little stayed in the City of Wenatchee and each played a vital role in the City's continued growth.
In 1908, the City purchased a horse-drawn combination hose and chemical piece of apparatus and employed Sam Wilson as driver. The following year Chas. Throw was appointed to a paid Fire Chief's position and served for the ensuing three years. In 1909, a horse-drawn ladder rig was purchased for $3,000. This rig remained in service until 1938, when it was replaced with a modern Seagraves 65-foot aerial ladder truck. When the former ladder truck was purchased, the City's fire defenses were brought to a standard for a City of Wenatchee’s size. Thanks to the efforts of several of today's firefighters, the ladder truck has been restored and is a proud piece of our history.
In 1912, Van Landingham was appointed Chief to succeed Chief Throw and served the City for two years. Under Chief Landingham's administration, the department was motorized. The City purchased a Boyd combination hose and chemical piece of motor equipment and a Buick car was donated to the City by Mike Horan. This was converted to a hose wagon with suitable rear-end connections to draw the ladder truck.
From 1914 to 1917, Harry Foster served as Fire Chief and from 1917 to 1924 William Bissel served the City as Chief. It was in 1918, under Chief Bissel, that Fred Paul, who later became Chief, was first employed. During the tenure of Chief Bissel, the paid force included three men and the Chief. In 1924 John W. Green was appointed Chief, at which time the City purchased a 1000-gallon American LaFrance pumper and enlarged the paid force from three to five men. A steam fire engine was also purchased from the City of Seattle to strengthen the pumping capacity. This unit remained in service until the latter part of 1928.
In 1925 Dallas Jenkins succeeded Chief Green and remained in service until 1929. The Senior Captain, Frank Daniels, went to work under Chief Jenkins in 1926. Two additional men were added to the force in 1927, however, the men continued to work the old straight shift, allowing just one day off in each seven-day cycle. A Chevrolet hose wagon was purchased in 1926, giving the City four pieces of equipment.
In 1929, H.W. Bryson succeeded Chief Jenkins as Chief and served continually until his retirement on April 1, 1949.
The Fire Department occupied the new two-story building at the corner of Yakima and Chelan Avenues in November 1929. The new quarters consisted of a club room, dormitory, recreation area, kitchen and dining room on the second floor. The ground floor offered space for six pieces of equipment, a shop, the watch office and the office of the Fire Chief. A five-story combination drill and hose-drying tower was located in the back of the building, and still stands today. The second floor also housed a four-circuit switchboard for the fire alarm system. The Fire Department still occupies this building today as the department’s headquarters, though the club room and recreation areas have been remodeled into office space.
The City took delivery of a new Mack 1000-gallon fire engine in 1929, for a total of two engines, two hose trucks and a ladder-trailer truck.
There were six additional men added to the department in 1930, bringing the total to 13. This addition brought a change to the team’s working schedule. The department moved to what is known as the “platoon system”, where workers complete ten working day hours and 14 working night hours per shift.
During this year, toys in need of repair were brought to the station. A large majority of the Fire Department personnel took an active role in the “Toys-For-Tots” program. At Christmas time, the toys were all repaired and distributed to the needy children in the community. The men of the station donated much of their own time, and the resulting program remains a success today.
In 1935, the department realized a significant advancement when the City’s Mayor and his successor, Tom Haskell established a Civil Service Commission to elevate the hiring standards for the department. The Firemen's Pension and Relief Fund was established and a 2% deduction was authorized from each department member’s pay. This assured the men and their dependents an income upon retirement. Further, later that year the A.F. of L. Firemen's Local 453 was granted a charter in Wenatchee.
In 1936, two more men were added to the department, which allowed the men two days off each month in lieu of Sundays. Working conditions were also changed from the platoon system to a new schedule that featured 24-hours on duty, followed by 24-hours off duty.
A new Seagraves 65' aerial ladder truck was delivered to the City in 1937. The Boyd hose truck and old horse-drawn ladder trailer were taken out of service.
In 1942 the City purchased a 1941 Chevrolet truck chassis and E.T. Pybus installed a 500-gallon pump and a combination 500-gallon water tank and hose compartment for a total of 1000-feet of hose. The City also purchased a used Dodge flatbed truck from the United States Government that served as an emergency rig and extra hose carrier, as well as a utility and maintenance vehicle.
On February 13, 1948, an Invader Model American LaFrance 750-gallon pumper was added to the station equipment, replacing the 1924 LaFrance.
Two-way radios were installed in the American LaFrance, the Seagraves aerial and the Chief's car. At this time, station equipment included two resuscitators and a Red Cross-equipped first-aid trailer. Station personnel responded to any first-aid call, while attending to their fire duties.
On April 1, 1949, Chief H.W. Bryson retired, and the former Assistant Chief Fred D. Paul was advanced to fill the vacancy. Under Chief Paul, many changes were made: civil service examinations were given and T.A. "Arvine" Weaver advanced to Assistant Chief, with Joe Davis appointed as Captain. Two new offices were created within the department calling for two Lieutenants and a Fire Marshal. These positions were filled and Floyd E. Berg was named the first Fire Marshal on May 16, 1950.
As of June 1, 1950, the department consisted of the following members: Chief, Assistant Chief, two Captains, two Lieutenants, Fire Marshal and 15 firefighters. Uniforms, turnouts and linen laundry were furnished to the department's personnel, with alternating 24-hour shifts for a 62-hour work week. Twelve days of annual vacation were allowed to each man, with a like amount of time off for illness.