Wash. fire department celebrates 125 years

The department was created in 1891; firefighters responded to fires with a steam-powered pump truck and a hose cart capable of carrying an 800-foot hose


By Kera Wanielista
Skagit Valley Herald 

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — In 1891, volunteer firefighters from the Mount Vernon Fire Department would respond to fires with a steam-powered pump truck and a hose cart capable of carrying an 800-foot hose — long enough to stretch from one end of town to the other.

Things have changed a bit since then.

The department has grown to three stations, 35 full-time firefighters, four engines, a ladder truck, an ambulance and a rescue vehicle, and is celebrating its 125th anniversary with new badges that honor its history.

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“The fire service is steeped in history and tradition,” Mount Vernon fire Lt. Scott Cleave said.

The new badges represent the department’s history, said Terry Hill, a second-generation Mount Vernon firefighter who retired last year after 44 years of service.

“They’ve got an old-style look,” he said.

Although retired, Hill spearheaded the effort to get new badges to commemorate the milestone. He said the department’s 100th anniversary passed with little fanfare.

“It always bugged me,” Hill said. “That’s a huge thing.”

Mayor Jill Boudreau has given firefighters permission to wear the badge while on duty throughout the year, Hill said.

The new badge comes in gold for chiefs and silver for others, and depicts the department’s first steam-powered pump truck.

Each badge is personalized with an engraved number stating the order in which the firefighter joined the department since 1921, when the city first hired a full-time fire chief and two drivers, Hill said.

Since then, the department has hired a total of 87 full-time firefighters, said Hill, whose badge bears the number 30.

Firefighters who have retired or moved on from the department are eligible to receive a badge, as are the families of firefighters who have died.

“(It’s to) recognize those that came before you,” firefighter Charles Bowers said.

The silver badges cost about $75, while the gold ones cost about $85, Hill said. Firefighters were able to purchase their badges out-of-pocket or through their equipment allotment, meaning there is no extra charge for the city.

“This is a sign of the spirit of the organization,” Fire Chief Roy Hari said. “When you have guys that are very proud of what they do and their department, they do stuff like this.”

Copyright 2016 Skagit Valley Herald
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