Spokane Fire Station No. 5: Firefighters Give Status to Schoolchildren

Built in 1893, Station No. 5 was originally located in the City Hall Annex, on the northeast corner of Howard and Front. Sometime between 1911-1912, it was relocated to the new City Hall at the southwest corner of Wall and Trent.

Because of its central location in downtown Spokane, Station No. 5 was known to entertain many of the local school children. Before public playgrounds, park swimming pools, or supervised recreational centers, children were left to their own devices when it came to personal entertainment. In those days, fire stations always offered a commanding attraction, and the children who spent their Saturdays watching firefighters were "envied by his school mates," and "looked up to as a privileged individual."

In the early days, twice a day, at 8am and 8pm the station bells would chime throughout the town, signaling it was time for the stations to drill their firefighters and their horses. The stall doors would burst open and each of the half dozen or so horses would charge from the stable to take its place under the suspended harnesses in thirty seconds or less. The schoolchildren were star struck as the firefighters descended from the shiny brass poles through the circular opening, only to land effortlessly on the padded mat.

City officials enacted regulations prohibited catering to the "known desires" of the visiting children, yet station personnel found ways to circumvent those regulations. Children felt privileged to help with stable duties, or "police up" the stalls. More daring youngsters were recruited to stand at the back of the horse stalls, and whip a horse in training who did not respond to the clang of the bell. One remembered: "We accepted the responsibility as if the world depended upon our choice of not hitting too hard or too light." Soon, the fire department turned to motorized fire apparatus and the days of the horse-drawn equipment vanished, "so too, for us kids, was the glamour."

Though the days of training horses and mucking out stalls passed, children were still entertained by more formal firefighting displays. In the 1920s, Station No. 5 entertained at Boy Scouts Day, and had been known to put on shows specifically for children in the 1950s. Modern day firefighters routinely show up to grade schools to educate and entertain children. And although the days of schoolchildren spending their Saturdays at local fire stations have passed, boys and girls, men and women, still show interest and support when their local firefighters are out running drills or attending special events.