Spokane Fire Station No. 13: Emergence into 20th Century Firefighting

Station No. 13 was the first station in Spokane to be built specifically for fire trucks, and not horse-drawn equipment. The single-story brick bungalow opened on June 22, 1913 at Wabash and Jefferson with Captain Marshall Jones in command. No. 13 was abandoned in September 1933, and relocated in June 1947 to Wellesley and Jefferson.

The "autotruck," or motorized engine, was utilized by the crew at No. 13. A technological marvel at the time, Spokane firefighters were thrilled to make the shift from horses to motors. The change began in 1910, when Chief Harry A. Myers purchased the first vehicle for the Spokane Fire Department. A 4-cylinder Cadillac Flyer replaced his black horse and buggy. Since then, Spokane slowly shifted to an all motorized department. In 1901, a 900-gallon "First-Class size" Metropolitan engine was purchased for $8500, and drawn by two steeds. In May of 1911, the apparatus was equipped with a Seagrave four-cylinder, 90-horse power tractor chassis at a cost of $6500. It was possible to get up enough steam to run the pump in four minutes flat. In order to do so, shavings were laid in the fire box, with coal laid on top of the shavings. A special vial of nitric acid was suspended above, and a contraption was kicked when the alarm sounded and this broke the bottle of acid. The acid caused the ignited shavings to flare, and another chemical solution containing potassium produced a "roaring blaze." The firefighters carried enough coal on the engine to last three hours, if it was not enough a supply wagon was then sent to feed the engine. After an arduous fire, it would take the crew a full day to clean so that it would pass inspection, and it was used in virtually every large downtown fire for thirty years.

Another major event for Spokane fire engines was the 1974 announcement that the first "fire engine yellow" truck would appear in Spokane. In efforts to increase visibility, Fire Chief Alfred L. O'Connor explained the repainting of the engine because "visibility is especially vital these days, because cars are being built to keep out noise, thus neutralizing sirens." The special yellow with a greenish tint proved to be the most visible of all colors, where the same optical tests proved red to be one of the least visible colors at night. The plan was to gradually extend the color change to all fire apparatus.

For whatever reason, tradition prevailed. Spokane Fire Department's fleet of fire engines all illuminate their namesake color, "fire engine red" in 2014.


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