History

Horse drawn steamer

The Vancouver Fire Department has a rich history.

On August 23, 1866, a fire broke out in the furniture store of Mr. J. Westall. The store was located among 12 closely placed wooden buildings on a downtown city block. This block, bordered by Third, Fourth, Main, and Washington Streets, was the same block that burned in 1861. Because of a briskly-blowing breeze, the fire spread quickly and in little more than an hour eight of the buildings had burnt to the ground. Two others were demolished to prevent further devastation. A fire engine from the Army barracks was on the scene and helped extinguish the flames, but the citizens of the new frontier town decided to take matters into their own hands.

The Saturday after the fire, a group of 30 citizens organized a volunteer fire company, later to be known as Vancouver Engine Company No. 1. H. G. Struve acted as president of this brave band; H. Cochran, foreman; William Tunbull, first assistant; H. C.Morse, second assistant; C. D. Montegue, secretary; and M. Wintier, treasurer.

To get started, the members of Engine Company No. 1 contributed $265 toward the purchase of a fire engine. Then they asked the townspeople for more money to buy a fire engine. On Sept. 19, 1866, the city council joined the cause, passing Ordinance No. 33, and allotted $1,000 from the city treasury to buy a fire engine.

The citizens of Vancouver continued to prepare for fire. On April 1, 1867, the City Council passed an ordinance organizing a fire department for the City of Vancouver.