Fighting Fire in Fairhaven
The Early Years
In the first settlements around Bellingham Bay, Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham and Fairhaven, fire protection consisted of valiant citizens flinging buckets of water on blazing structures.  It was not until August 7, 1889, that an organized fire company was established in the town of Whatcom.
Behind the Photo:  The original photo is by Webster & Pierce. Written on the back in nice old-fashioned cursive it says: "Presented to Miss Olive Larson by Capt. J. H. Mulrein, Dec. 16, 1890.”  That says so much right there!  Why else be a volunteer firefighter than to be able to "present” this photo of your brave self to Miss Olive?  Otherwise, you’re just "Mulrain [sic], James H., plumber [for] Fairhaven Plumbing and Supply Company” in E.M. Day’s Fairhaven City Directory 1890-91. 
Other fire brigades in neighboring towns were soon formed, and it became a badge of honor to be associated with one of these agencies, especially considering there was little, if any, pay attached.  Similar to sports teams involved in cross-town rivalries, each agency tried to outdo their neighbors at community events and exhibitions of prowess in beating their rivals to a fire and successfully limiting the destruction of property.

The building boom in the town of Fairhaven in the early 1890s signaled the need for expanded fire suppression efforts, and the leading developers stepped forward to ensure the protection of their economic interests.

Nelson Bennett, early investor and founder of Fairhaven Land Company, donated a new steam fire engine on September 2, 1891, that would enhance the capabilities of Bennett Hose Company, No.1 which was organized on June 6, 1890.

Another major investor and Fairhaven promoter, James Wardner, also organized a hose company on the same day.  This was known as Wardner Hose Company, No.2.

Fairhaven Hook and Ladder Company, No.1 was established on September 7, 1891, and this company along with Wardner’s Hose Co. was located at 1112 Donovan Avenue, where they would be based until 1927.


The towns of Whatcom and Fairhaven (having absorbed the towns of Sehome and old Bellingham) were consolidated into the city of Bellingham in 1903, and the new Bellingham Fire Department was subsequently founded in 1904 with paid firefighters, eclipsing the era of volunteers. 


Two fire stations were established within the new city boundaries--Fire Station #1, protecting the north side of town, located at 201 Prospect Street (now home to the Whatcom Museum’s Syre Education Center), and Fire Station #2 protecting the south side and located at 1112 Donovan Avenue (building now torn down).

  In 1927, a new facility for Station #2, designed in the Spanish Mission style by local architect, F. Stanley Piper, was constructed a 1314 Harris Avenue for $15,000 on property sold to the City by Cyrus Gates for $1.00.  The station housed a crew of six firefighters plus equipment.  As fire equipment became larger and more sophisticated, the double doors of the original structure were replaced by a single overhead door.  This station served the community for over seventy years.

Additional information focusing on fire suppression history in Bellingham can be found in:

Bellingham Fire Department, the First 100 Years.  [Vancouver, Wash.}.  Pediment Publishing, c2004. 


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