North Battalion (Littlerock)
Early settlers came to the Littlerock area in the 1850’s. In 1854 the first road was slashed between Littlerock and Tumwater. By 1925 a bustling town had developed. On June 27, 1925 the town of Littlerock was engulfed in fire, and the established Olympia firefighters had to be called to keep the fire from spreading further. The region experienced another massive fire, claiming the Maytown Mill, nine homes and ten bunk houses that were destroyed on July 29, 1925. Fire was one of the most devastating disasters of the era. In an effort to improve public safety the State legislature provided for the formation of fire districts under title 52 RCW in 1939.
In August 1957, at the request of local citizens in the Littlerock area, a special election was held for the purpose of determining if Fire Protection District No. 11 should be formed. The ballots cast were 121 “yes” votes and 4 “no” votes. The first fire district commissioners (Alvey Morehouse, John Seed and Homer Hedgepeth) were also elected. When first established in 1957 the fire district was approximately 55 square miles (101 sq. mi. today).
The firefighters who currently staff the firehouse have great admiration and gratitude for those who have served over the 50-year history of the Littlerock Fire Department. Today at the Headquarters Station on Littlerock Road you can see the first fire engine to serve in the District. The 1936 Ford stands proudly in the first apparatus bay as you enter the lobby. It is the story of the first fire engine acquisition that truly signifies the commitment, vision and sacrifices some very special public servants made to ensure public safety. The 1936 ford was acquired in 1958 from the Kent Fire Department for $500 dollars. The names of the people responsible for the formation of the District are proudly memorialized on the plaque affixed to the engine. It took these special people (Harold Bade, Davie Brown, Homer Hedgepeth, Lloyd Jones, Alvey Morehouse, John Seed, Carlos Winkle) with the vision and commitment to sacrifice their personal finances by signing a bank loan to acquire the District’s first fire engine. The same personal sacrifices continue today with many of our volunteers who give freely of themselves to serve this larger ever-growing community.
While we proudly maintain the values that the Fire District was formed under, our focus is to maintain the fire district history and values. We understand that the residents of the district trust us to serve efficiently and effectively manage the resources that have been acquired by the residents of the district. We also understand that the decisions we make and what we plan for today, our children and grandchildren may inherit in the future. That humbling thought guides us to maintain the high level of service while focusing on building a fire department with the strength and depth necessary to sustain the rapidly changing community and the escalating call volume associated with that growth.
South Battalion (Rochester)
Thurston County Fire District #1 was formed by a vote of the people in 1947, and the previous Grand Mound Fire District (District #14) in 1964. Thurston County Fire District #14 was merged into Fire District #1 in February 2002. The current region of Fire District #1 encompasses the communities of Grand Mound and Rochester. The past and present Fire Commissioners, Chiefs, staff and volunteers have embraced changes many times during their years.
Fire District #1 borders Lewis County to the south and Grays Harbor to the west. Thurston County District #11 is to the north and Thurston County District #12 and #16 are to the east. Our district protects 66 square miles in the southwest region of the county with a population of about 16,000. Our area is being more known as a “bedroom community”, as many call our District home, but work elsewhere. Given this, daytime populations may differ from those during evening hours.
The terrain of our area ranges from flat open valley, to river flood plains to the forested hills of the coastal range. Population is on the increase in our area with a great influx of residential new construction over the last few years. Some developments and subdivision at a glance have the appearance of our district being suburban, but simply driving a mile in any direction one could find themselves in rural and wilderness area. The Chehalis and Black River run from east to west in the fire district with the former causing operational issues during minor flooding which has occurred several times over the past few years, and major flooding in the past has required the need for evacuations. There are many small minor tributaries to the Chehalis and Black Rivers including Scatter Creek and Prairie Creek.
Interstate 5 and SR 12 are our major transportation thoroughfares and locations for many of our responses. Major secondary arterials include Old Hwy 99, Sargent Rd., 183rd Ave. and Littlerock Rd. The Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad’s main line runs through the district and serves local industries. The major roadways and rail line are an identified concern due to the transport of hazardous materials and radiological/nuclear material. The major concern for the district with respect to transportation incidents is hazardous materials, mass casualty scenes, and motor vehicle accident rescue.
The business sector of the district has continued to grow over the past. The new influx of residential has started to bring with it the associated businesses that will support the new population. The districts main businesses include Briarwood Farms who have 3 sites in the District, Weyerhaeuser Company who has a tree farm and nursery, two large propane storage facilities, and the Lucky Eagle Casino. There are many other locations that are retail, gas stations, convenience stores, repair and rebuilding facilities, agricultural, dairy, and in home businesses. Over the past few years, the construction and opening of the Great Wolf Lodge and its surrounding infrastructure created an increase of call volume for our responders.
With our District covering hills and forested area, our district has many homes located within the wildland/urban interface which create many challenges for fire protection. The amount of new construction appears to be middle class residential and in subdivisions or short plats, with the district now having many cul-de-sac and private lanes off county roads with houses. There are many areas of the district that have homes that are in a limited water supply area or limited access.
The diversity of our area can be easily seen by driving from one part of the district to the other. This diversity can be a challenge for our responders and how they operate to and on emergency scenes. Our district remains open-minded to changes to provide safety to the responders and citizens in our continually changing community.