Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Historical Fire Station 17

(If you stumbled over here from Facebook, the Engine 17 'become a Fan' Facebook button is over there on the right.)

I am trying to obtain photos of Engine 17 during her service life with Tacoma, at any time of her career as E17, E9 and E10. They exist, but can I get access to them? We'll see how it goes. The request is out there.

In the meantime, I have been scraping together photos loosely related to 'my' Engine 17 to entertain you. Today, some history on Fire Station 17.

Construction of Fire Station #17 began in 1954, just east of the intersection of South 35th Street and Union Avenue. When completed and opened in early 1955, Tacoma established Engine Company #17 for the first time.

Some boring commentary on the operational size of Tacoma Fire since then.....

The 1955 opening of Fire Station #17 expanded the fire department to 18 stations (counting the fireboat station). Station 17 was also intended to house the not-yet-established Truck Company #5, but it never happened and Tacoma still operates to this day with only four ladder companies.

Many other changes have taken place, but the net change over the past 54 years amounts to:

  • Disbanding of Engine 5 (Engines 3 and 12 were also disbanded for quite a while, but both returned, E3 around 1983 and E12 roughly 1998)
  • Rescue 1 (technical rescue) evolving over the decades into five Medic units
  • Establishment of a new fireboat at a new Station 5 and then the relatively recent disbanding of both fireboat crews (one fireboat remains staffed by an engine crew when they are available)
  • The addition of a handful of other unstaffed specialty units.

Overall, the department lost one fire company, one fireboat company, and one rescue company, while gaining five ambulances, amounting to essentially no change in the department's staffing since 1955.

Take the 1955 staffing levels, and then apply the enormous increase in call volume since then due to the assumption of EMS calls (which usually make up about 80% of a fire department's call volume). Then apply the growth of Tacoma from around 137,000 people to over 203,000 in those 54 years, an increase of over 32%. And then apply the assumption of fire protection for the Cities of Fife and Fircrest (combined 2009 population 14,000 pushing the covered total population to over 217,000), and you have the Tacoma Fire Department handling exponentially more calls, covering a population increase of nearly 40%, and doing so with the same number of personnel and apparatus available in 1955. Wow!

Anyway.... back to the interesting Engine 17 stuff.

This architectural drawing of Fire Station #17 is pretty close to how it came out.

Here are some pictures of Station 17 shortly after it was completed. You can see the reference to the hoped-for but never realized Truck Company #5 over one of the bay doors.

Tacoma's Engine 17 was relocated to Fircrest when Tacoma assumed their fire protection by contract in 1995, thus the station formerly used by the Fircrest Fire Department became the new Tacoma Station 17.

The old Station 17 on 35th Street, having served its intended duty for only a short 40 years, was remodeled into administrative space and is now the home of the fire prevention division. You can see what it looks like today via Google Street View by clicking the link below. The building's footprint has been expanded into the original covered outside area, the hose tower has been removed, and there is a wall with small windows and a door where the large glass truck bay doors used to be. Driving by, you'd never guess what it used to be except for the curb ramp inexplicably leading up to the wall where Engine 17 used to pull out.

Old Fire Station 17 Google Street View

When we come back.... pictures of older Tacoma fire apparatus similar and related to Engine 17.


  1. did you know that when you click on the directional arrows in the Google link it lists the address as Lakewood??? WTH???

    Anyway, speaking to the service of the department... when I attended the TFD awards ceremonies in Nov, they talked quite a bit about staffing and budgets, like every other dept. in the country, I'm sure. These guys (to include the females, of course) are amazingly dedicated people. I know that is no surprise to anyone familiar with what kind of person does this kind of a job, but there are so many vacancies that cannot be filled due to budget issues and so many things being done to help the city deal with a budget crisis and these guys just keep doing the job and making the best of what they have to work with. They had the opportunity to speak freely at these events but I didn't hear any grumbling. And their Chief was very positive and full of praise. You gotta love these guys. I know I do!

    Thanks for sharing these little bits of history and trivia.