October 21, 2017
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Department History

Station 22 in the early 1960's

The Bainbridge Island Fire Department has been serving the Bainbridge Island community for over 65 years. In the summer of 1942, Louis W. Sinnett formed Kitsap County Fire Protection District Number 2. At that time, the Department had one truck and 16 volunteers who were called by telephone at home to respond to fires. By 1955 there was a fire station in Winslow, manned by volunteers, who dispatched all fire calls.

In 1958 Chief Sinnett retired and was replaced by Chief "Squirrel" Callaham. The 1960's were a decade of growth for the Department. In 1960, two Ford "attack" pumpers were purchased. In 1961 another pumper and a pumper/tanker were purchased. In 1969 two Ford tankers were acquired, and the Department hired three full-time dispatchers. In 1970, a Seagrave pumper was purchased, providing the Department with its first diesel powered truck that could pump 1750 gallons per minute – over three times the flow of the attack pumpers. At this point, the Department had obtained eight pieces of apparatus through donations and community support.

In 1971 Don Beach became the Fire Chief. By 1972, airlifts began to speed up transports through the use of Army MAST helicopters. In 1976, the answering and dispatching of all emergency calls was taken over by the 911 center in Bremerton, "CenCom" as it is known today.

By the mid-1970's, medical and first aid calls were quickly becoming a mainstay of the Department's operations. With these changes in response needs, the Rotary Club purchased a defibrillator for Department use. Two fully-equipped Aid cars, purchased in 1975 and 1976 through donations and Rotary Club support, provided the Department with the most up-to-date aid equipment available to respond to the growing number of medical calls.

The Department, under the direction of Chief Beach, began offering CPR classes to the public in 1974, and introduced Public Education classes in the local schools, services the Department still provides today.

The Island's first paid, shift firefighters began work in 1978: Gary Clough, Mark Hannon and L. "Butch" Lundin, each of whom had been a volunteer or a dispatcher for the Department.

The next 20 years marked rapid growth and expansion for the Department. In the mid 70's, the residents of Bainbridge Island approved the construction of a new station to be located at the corner of New Brooklyn and Madison Avenue.  With a continuously increasing call volume, the Department was in need of funding to purchase more apparatus, build a new station and hire additional paid staff (three firefighters are required in order to staff a station with one person 24 hours per day due to 24-hour schedules and 56 hour workweeks). In 1993, the voters approved a levy increase that would allow the Department to meet some of these needs.

In 1994, the Department officially became the "Bainbridge Island Fire Department. As the commercial development of Bainbridge Island increased, the viability of a ladder truck was heavily researched to provide aerial firefighting capabilities. In 1996 plans were made to construct a new station on the north end of Bainbridge Island which would include a training facility for career and volunteer members.

Increasing demands for emergency services guided the leadership of the Department to commit to creating a larger career staff to guarantee that responders would be available every hour of every day, including a team of Paramedics.  In 2005, the community approved a temporary levy lid lift to replace emergency response apparatus. Since the enactment of Initiative 747 in 2001, the Department has not requested a levy increase to support personnel costs.

In 2006, the voters approved a measure to expand the Board of Commissioners from three to five members. The goal of this expansion was to increase the diversity of representation and provide greater flexibility for meeting quorum requirements.  In recent years, the Department has acquired over $1 million in grant funds to purchase safety equipment for its members, and to recruit and retain volunteers, including $650,000 awarded in 2008. The focus on exploring cost-saving options has made the Department a leader in resource sharing and has guided the district in exploring staffing programs to meet the increasing demand for services.

In 2009 the community passed the first ever Emergency Medical Services levy which provided funds to hire firefighter/EMT's to open another fire station, Station 22 on Bucklin Hill Rd.