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Tualatin celebrates original fire department's 75th anniversary

by: Jaime Valdez Russell Washburn, former Tualatin Fire Department Fire Chief, shakes hands with Ernest Metcalfe, a former Beaverton Fire Department captain at Saturday's celebration.

Fire trucks no longer cost $165 and emergency calls no longer go directly to the home of the fire chief, but Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue seems to be just as dedicated as the Tualatin Fire Department was, decades ago, to the safety of local residents.

On Saturday, TVF and R partnered with the Tualatin Historical Society to celebrate 75 years of fire history. Past and present fire employees and their families filled TVF and R Station 34 on Southwest 90th Court, where a collection of photos, anecdotes and historical facts were unveiled in the form of a spiral-bound book: 'Tualatin Fire Protection History: 1937-1989.'

'Everyone's always so busy, we forget to record history,' said TVF and R Fire Chief Mike Duyck. 'It turned out great - better than I imagined. I can't believe the kind of information and details they found.'

The book, which is available for $20 from the Historical Society, maps out the history of Tualatin's emergency fire response, beginning with its origins as a volunteer organization serving 200 Tualatin residents in the late 1930s.

'The retired members that are around are either forgetting or passing away,' Duyck said. 'A lot of this history we didn't have, we didn't know. It's interesting to learn.'

The diamond jubilee mirrored the annual anniversary celebrations that used to take place each February during the department's earlier years, complete with a white-frosted sheet cake. However, the anniversary events were not the only parties the department used to put on, on a regular basis.

'When the fire department was first formed…they would have summer picnics on the Martinazzi and Nyberg farms,' said Historical Society member and the book's author Yvonne Addington. 'They would also have fundraising dances to raise money for the fire trucks, the building and the ambulances. There was always some function…the whole family went. We were raised to respect what the firemen were doing.'

Addington, whose father was a volunteer firefighter during the department's early days, spearheaded the fact-gathering effort. It was during a discussion with Henrietta Barngrover, daughter of the department's first Fire Chief Bill Barngrover, that Addington began thinking about the importance of preserving history and passing on the department's legacy.

'She said, 'No one remembers my father anymore,'' Addington said.

The problem was that almost all of the department's former records and relics had been lost when the Tualatin Rural Fire Protection District merged with TVF and R in 1989.

'Fire district staff were told to just get rid of all the files,' Addington said. 'I have no idea why. It was clerical staff under somebody's orders…some of the (firefighters) saw some of the stuff in the garbage cans and rescued it - like the 1928 (meeting) minutes book.

'I think there's a real problem with preserving history: There's not enough oversight to protect some of the old records. We're finding more and more records have perished.'

Addington called upon former firefighters and their families to share any photos, stories or artifacts they may have had that would assist in the reconstruction of the department's history. Every month, from October 2010 until January 2012, close to a dozen people met every month to share new memories and found items.

'We knew we had quite a chore on our hands, because we had to recreate the history from people's memories, news clippings, albums and photographs,' Addington said. 'The first few meetings were what I called 'organized chaos.' Someone would just bring in a picture and lay it down on the table and six or seven people would start talking at one time about what they remembered.'

Though he died in 1970, Saturday's celebration happened to land on what would have been Chief Barngrover's birthday.

'I knew it was going to be great, but I had no idea it would be this great,' Henrietta Barngrover said of the celebration and the book's completion. According to Addington, this looks like it's only the beginning of the department's historical reconstruction.

'There was so much (information) coming in, we could not include it all in the book,' Addington said. 'I don't know where it's going to go, but I don't think it's over. There's still so much history to talk about.'

To order a book, or for more information, call the Tualatin Heritage Center at 503-985-1926.




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