Spokane Fire Station No. 7: Unsung Equine Heroes

Erected in 1904 and opened in January 1905, the first Station No. 7 was located at the northeast corner of First and Magnolia. In efforts to purchase a flag and landscaping trees, a benefit dance was put on, successfully raising $150.

This was the glory era of horse-drawn firefighting. Every station had its stable of horses, chosen for their strength and trained to respond instantly to the firefighters' commands. The horses were attractions in their own rights, and many displayed remarkable personalities.

Nig was the horse of Chief Meyers at the old city hall station in the early 1900s. If old Nig was hitched to his buggy and somebody forgot to tie him, he'd immediately wander out of the station looking for the chief. He'd show up at the Coeur d'Alene Hotel looking for him, and if he didn't find him there, he'd move on to the Club Café, and wait there. Nig also found himself in a lot of trouble. Because Chief Myers forgot to tie him up at a fire, Nig wandered down the bank to the river and swam to the other side, dragging the buggy behind him. But Nig didn't know how to get out of the bank, so once the firefighters found him, they put considerable effort in directing Nig up the bank.

Two other horses, Babe and Clyde, belonged to Captain George Caughey out of Station No. 6. The team could not be driven by anyone other than the captain. Babe and Clyde would do anything for their captain, including eating onion as their eyes watered, something they would do for no other firefighter. When out in the yard eating grass, Babe and Clyde would immediately run to their places on the fire truck once they heard the sounding of the fire gong. "Babe, a horse that was so high strung and nervous that men were afraid of her, was crazy about my baby. Every time the baby was brought into the station, she would spring the lock on her stall and come out and nose it," explained Captain Caughey. And every time Captain Caughey would remove Babe's bridle, she would pick it up from the floor and give it to him to put back on.

Chief J.T. Blamey reflected on the fact that his station's seven horses would sleep through the short ring alarms, which were non-emergency calls, but would be ready to start at the sound of a long ring, indicative of an emergency alarm. Blamey also recalled Station No. 5's hook and ladder team. After every fire they would end up in front of a brewery. "That team knew every brewery in town," he remembered. If the fire was in Browne's Addition, they went straight to Bohemian Brewery, a fire in the east end of town would direct the horses to Schade Brewery, and if on the northwest end they would take the firefighters to another brewery, all without the direction of the fire engineer. In showing their appreciation to the horses, a few firefighters felt it good manners to purchase a bucket of beer for the horses.

Horses were often injured and killed in the line of duty. Wet pavement, mud, and ice were hard on the horses, and street cars often collided with the horses. Horses wore spiked shoes in the winter, and even had their own hospitals within the stations.
As horses faded out of the fire department, so too did the architectural beauty of the early twentieth century. Stations became shorter and wider and were surrounded by parking lots instead of lawns, in order to accommodate bigger and more efficient apparatus. Station No. 7 was razed in 1960 and rebuilt into a modern cement block structure. But the memories of the horses of the Spokane Fire Department are still present even 100 years after their removal.


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