Wedgwood’s Do-It-Yourself Fire Department in the 1940s

In 1941 developer Albert Balch started building houses from NE 80th to 85th Streets, 30th to 35th Avenues NE, and chose the name “Wedgwood” for the new subdivision.  He did not deliberately set out to name the neighborhood, but the name gradually caught on as businesses began to name themselves “Wedgwood.”

Wedgwood residents began to develop a sense of identity as a neighborhood and one of their first acts of community organizing was spurred by concern for fire safety. At that time in northeast Seattle the city limits were at NE 65th Street, so Wedgwood was outside the city in unincorporated King County and was without fire protection.

Copyright notice:  text and photos in this article are protected under a Creative Commons Copyright.  Permission to copy text and photos from this article is NOT given.

The Wedgwood neighborhood did not get its own fire station until 1965.  Fire Station 40 is at 9401 35th Ave NE.

Wedgwood did not get its own fire station until 1965. Fire Station 40 is at 9401 35th Ave NE.

Wedgwood neighbors passed around a petition to form a fire district and on November 11, 1943, King County Fire District #19 was organized with Doug Clyde, Jerry Parmenter and Frank Provost as commissioners. Walt Adams, an insurance agent, obtained a Model A truck with pump attached. Each participating family was assessed $10 to pay for the truck and some equipment: extinguishers, axes, fire hats, coats, and boots. The fire truck was kept in Doug Clyde’s garage at 3148 NE 82nd Street.

Wedgwood organizing as a neighborhood

Fire Station 40 gear and equipment.

Fire Station 40 gear and equipment.  Photo by Valarie.

During the 1940s years of World War Two everyone had already been trained in civil defense and it seemed only natural to have neighborhood fire drills as well. The daytime volunteer unit of Wedgwood housewives performed practice runs to see how fast they could assemble, drive the fire truck to the nearest hydrant and hook up.

The excitement was short-lived, however, as effective April 19, 1945, Seattle’s northeast boundary was moved from NE 65th up to NE 85th Street and Wedgwood’s do-it-yourself fire district ceased to exist. Wedgwood was then served by Fire Station 38 which at that time was at 5503 33rd Ave NE in Ravenna. (A new Station 38 was completed in March 2011 at 4004 NE 55th Street, across from Metropolitan Market, and was renamed the Hawthorne Hills Station.)

The boulder in Wedgwood Square Park at the intersection of 31st Ave NE and NE 82nd Street.

The boulder in Wedgwood Square Park at the intersection of 31st Ave NE and NE 82nd Street.

As of 1945 Wedgwood’s Model A fire truck was relegated to Balch’s lumber yard (present site of QFC at the corner of NE 85th Street) and finally ended up in Walt Adam’s used car lot at 95th & 35th (present site of the Morningside Heights apartment building.)

Leftover money from the neighborhood “fire fund” was used for planting Wedgwood Square Park at the intersection of 31st Ave NE and NE 82nd Street. World War Two ended later in that year of 1945, and Wedgwood neighbors then turned their organizing efforts to the formation of a community club which would represent them in zoning and development issues.

Wedgwood gets its own fire station in 1965

The kitchen of Fire Station 40 was remodelled in 2012-2013.

The kitchen of Fire Station 40 was remodelled in 2012-2013.  Photo by Valarie.

In 1965 Wedgwood finally got its own fire station on 35th Ave NE at the corner of NE 94th Street. That site was owned by Albert Balch who was willing to sell the lot to the city at a price they could afford.

Fire Station 40 has served Wedgwood since 1965, but after forty-seven years, the building needed some upgrades.  Under the Fire Facilities & Emergency Response Levy, in 2012 retrofits and interior remodeling began at Station 40.  The entire wood structure was seismically renovated to withstand earthquakes.  Interior remodeling included the kitchen, workout room, dayroom and bunk spaces, and revised office space.  The construction project was completed in phases while the station remained occupied and active.

Fire station 40 is remodelled

A fun time was had by all at the Fire Station 40 Open House on August 10, 2013.

A fun time was had by all at the Fire Station 40 Open House on August 10, 2013.  Photo by Valarie.

The Station 40 project celebrated an Open House on August 10, 2013, to show off the improved spaces. Due to the Seattle Fire Department having issued an invitation with the incorrect spelling “Wedgewood,” they offered to make up for it by bringing quite a few Top Pot Doughnuts to the Open House!

Fire station feature

Below: Doug Clyde’s article in the Wedgwood Echo newsletter of April 1960, telling of the 1943 volunteer fire squadron in Wedgwood.

Doug Clyde April 1960 in the Wedgwood Echo

In this Wedgwood Echo community council newsletter article of April 1960, Doug Clyde wrote of the 1943 volunteer fire department in the neighborhood.  All rights reserved; do not copy.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for neighborhood history in Seattle, Washington.
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