Fire Commission fires Seattle Fire Chief Gardner Kellogg on November 1, 1892.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 9/04/2002
  • Essay 3934
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On November 1, 1892, Fire Chief Gardner Kellogg is dismissed from his job, sparking political troubles within the Seattle Fire Department for the next four years. Kellogg is rehired in 1896.


Kellogg had been a firefighter since 1870, when he joined Seattle's first volunteer fire brigade. He later became chief of the volunteers, but stepped down in 1888. When the Seattle Fire Department was authorized after the Great Fire of 1889, he was again chosen as chief, this time in a paid position.

Kellogg was an advocate of fire prevention. Noting that much of the damage caused by the Great Fire was caused by shoddy construction, he recommended ordinances which would place responsibility for fire safety on building owners. Kellogg personally inspected every commercial building in the city.

Businessmen were unhappy. These new ordinances would cost them money, and cutting costs was much more important to them than fire safety. They complained to the Fire Commission and asked for Kellogg's dismissal. Since the charter allowed for removal without cause, the commission fired Kellogg on November 1, 1892.


Captain Al Hunt was chosen as the new chief , but some commissioners wanted their own friends in charge. Hunt was fired on September 28, 1894, but since commissioners couldn't come up with a replacement, Hunt refused to leave office. While he was on a fishing trip in Canada the following spring, they appointed Alex Allen, Jr. to take his place.

Allen was never confirmed, and infighting broke out. A few months later, William Clark was named interim chief until a new chief could be found. Ralph Cook, who was well-liked, was confirmed on July 20, 1895.

By this time, citizens were fed up with the political posturing of the Fire Commission. A new city charter was written, which included a Civil Service system to replace the commission system. The charter was approved in March 1896, and Mayor W. D. Wood offered Gardner Kellogg his old job back. Kellogg once again became chief, and Cook became assistant chief.


Glen W. Garvie, Seattle Fire Department Centennial: 1889-1989 (Portland, Oregon: Taylor Publishing Company, 1989), 39-42.

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