Spokane Fire Station No. 12: Blazes of Finger Pointing

Slated to last 100 years, Station No. 12 was erected of brick and mortar in 1912, located at 2307 E. Glass Avenue. No. 12 was the last station built to house horses, and every station since has been designed as a horizontal cement structure. Currently, the building is privately owned, but has been well-maintained to preserve its original decorative features.

Though Station No. 12 was one of many Spokane stations not present during the Great Fire of 1889, many of the firefighters at the station could recount stories passed on to them about what it was like to be a volunteer firefighter immediately after the fire. Blame was widespread, and many of the firefighters defended their involvement with battling the blazes.

Robert F. Dyer, a twenty year old hose company No.2 volunteer vividly remembered the circumstances of the Great Fire. "Hoses at first dripped water. Water Superintendent Rolla Jones was 'trying out his new clipper on Lake Coeur d'Alene,' and the assistant didn't 'just understand the system.'" He continued, "By the time the water streamed out with force, the fire was out of control."

After the fire, citizens wanted answers as to who, or what, was to blame for the out of control fire. Commentaries in The Spokesman-Review illustrate the contention between Spokane citizens, City Officials, and Spokane volunteer firefighters after the fire.

Three days after the fire, an anonymously signed editorial determined that "the real fault lay with the hook and ladder department. The entire work done by the department showed an extraordinary lack of intelligent direction and an inability to grasp the situation and compete with it."

In a rebuttal, one of the Tigers, or volunteer firefighters, responded to the accusations the next day, claiming that the accuser "lacks the nerve to sign his last name, to the most uncalled for and willful lie the undersigned ever heard of. The hook and ladder truck was entirely dismantled at the start of the fire and did more than their duty as firemen and citizens." On the third day another letter, signed only as "A Friend of the Fire Department," appeared. The writer went on to describe the fire, and after seeing fires such as the one experienced on August 4, 1889 in other cities, knew the fire department would not be able to handle it. "My worst fears were but too soon realized." The respondent continued, "There was a lacking of hose. There were but three streams when there should have been at least twice as many...Of course the firemen are not to be charged with the responsibility of inefficiency." The writer concludes his article with suggestions to the city of providing more equipment so that there would be more firefighters better able to fight such disastrous conflagrations.

Regardless of who was to be blamed for the fire, the City Council took action. And later that year, the fire department became a paid department, with improved equipment, and the support of the community to combat future blazes.