Fire company forms in Seattle after a fire in the central business district in 1876.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 7/21/1999
  • Essay 1513
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In 1876 a volunteer fire company, Seattle Engine Company No. 1, forms in Seattle shortly after a fire occurs in T. P. Freeman's store in the center of the business district.

The city of Seattle purchased a hand-operated water pump fire engine from Sacramento and a cart and hose from Port Gamble for a total cost of $1,425. Ben Murphey headed the volunteers. The engine house for Seattle's first fire engine, named Sacramento, was a vacant stable on 2nd Street (later renamed Occidental Avenue) near Main Street. As part of the fire-readiness operation, the city placed cisterns at the center of major intersections to provide water.

The volunteer force got off to an inauspicious start. The first fire after the Sacramento arrived occurred at 5th Avenue and Cherry Street. When the fire engine reached James R. Robbins' residence, which was on fire, no water was available. The house burned down.

Seattle purchased its first steam fire engine in 1878.


Thomas Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897" (typescript, dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Library, Seattle), 203-204.

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