The History of Molalla Fire

(picture taken on steps of original Molalla High School)
Front Row (left to right): Howard Slyter, George Emmert, Wally Wallace, Swede Larson, J.D. Peterkin. Second Row (left to right): James waller, Frank Slyter, Chief Clyde Kendall, Mitchel Slyter, Norman Granquist. Top Row (left to right): Assistant Chief Ben Lindland, Ted Turner, Chet Grandquist, Ozzie Marson

In the early days, fire suppression in the city was provided by a hose cart stored in the water tower located near Metzler and W Main. This cart was then pulled by the firefighters, to the fire, and then connected to the city water system. The water tower helped to provide water pressure through a maze of hollowed out logs that were dipped in tar and wrapped with wire. This was the first water system installed in Molalla. As the city grew, and fire suppression needs became more apparent, more modern fire equipment was needed. The Molalla Fire Volunteers used weekly to monthly dances to acquire funds for equipment. By 1924 the Molalla volunteers formed the Molalla Fire Department and this became recognized by the state.

With this newly formed Fire Department, services were offered to those who subscribed, or bought fire coverage. Not all could afford this coverage and there was an ever increasing need not only for fire coverage, but for medical services. In the late 1930’s, the Molalla Fire Department became Molalla Rural Fire Protection District #73 (MRFPD #73). A five person board of directors and tax district were then formed. This allowed the Fire District to tax and provide Fire Protection services to all persons inside the district. About the same time the district was formed, the Molalla Fire Volunteers used the Molalla Rodeo as a means for raising funds. During the Rodeo they also held a Firemen’s Dance and by 1948 Molalla Fire District was able to purchase it’s first ambulance. As the district grew, the need to run a large fund raiser like the rodeo was no longer needed. The volunteers turned the Rodeo over and kept the annual July 3 Firemen’s dance as a fund raiser.

This Molalla Volunteer Fire Department crew just purchased their new truck from an outfit in
Portland and drove it back to Molalla where it made its new home. Notice the grandstands
in the background of the old Molalla Buckeroo Arena, since torn down. The fire department took
over the Buckeroo back then in order to raise money for the department.
(Left to right): L.E. Masterton, O.G. Foglesong, D.H. Robbins, Charley Webber, Walt Taylor, Chester Grandquist,
Roliegh Echerd, Charley Skinner, Norman Kenney, Henry Dahl, Leo Shaver, Emory Worth, Sid Powers.
(At the wheel): Harry Harvey. (Seated): Arthur Farr

In 1987 the Molalla Ambulance Service and the Molalla Rural Fire Protection District merged. With the ever increasing need for both services it was a good match. By now the MRFPD # 73 had a paid Chief, a growing number of volunteer firefighters and new EMT’s. This included three volunteer paramedics. These Paramedics, some of the first in the state, took turns doing 24 hour shifts to cover the ambulance responses. With the increasing growth in Molalla’s Fire District, the need for a constant coverage of both fire response and medical response was clear. In 1989 MRFPD #73 decided to hire three firefighter paramedics to help cover the medical needs of the district and assist the volunteers with fire response. The cost of these firefighter paramedics was covered by the ambulance user fees.

The MRFPD #73 volunteers continued to have the Firemen’s Dance on July 3rd for many years as their fund raiser. The money gained from the dance went largely back to community organizations, but by the mid 1990’s the Fireman’s dance was discontinued. In the late 1990’s the board hired one additional daytime firefighter paramedic. The Molalla Fire District maintained the same staffing until August 2007 when one additional daytime firefighter was added. With a tax of only $0.78 per $1,000 the fire district found ways to make what funds they collected go as far as possible. From 1990 till 2000, the Fire District was able to buy a Refurbished 1988 Water tender, a Fire Engine, an Ambulance, and re-mount (new chassis) for an ambulance. Thus our statement “Doing Whatever it Takes” .

In 2000, the Main Station, in Molalla, was remodeled and expanded. This allowed more space for training and the station has since been set up as a command post for any natural disaster or major incident. In 2000 the district started to apply for federal assistance grants. With this money, over several years, the District purchased an Engine, Breathing apparatus, fire hose, radios (handheld and vehicle), extrication tools, and fire training. The training not only benefited MRFPD #73 but also allowed our mutual aid companies the same training. This improved the Districts ability to: fight fires (structural and wildland), provide vehicle extrication, and an increase in Firefighters level of certification.

In 2013 with a significant increase in call volume and an inability to cover all calls, the Fire District applied for a safer grant to hire six additional Firefighter/Paramedics for two years. The District was awarded the grant and in May of 2014, six Firefighter/Paramedics were hired. This greatly helped the District cover the 151 call increase in 2014. In 2014 the district went out for a Levy and a bond and passed both. The district was able to purchase two Water Tenders, which were greatly needed, and two command vehicles. This is just the start. Thanks to the community for passing the bond and levy. The Molalla Fire District will continue to “Do Whatever it Takes” to remain fiscally responsible and provide the best service within our capabilities.