Sweet Home Fire Department began in October, 1938, with the acceptance by the City of Sweet Home of an offer of Aid By Way of Loan and Grant from the U.S. Government. Soon there after plans for a City Water Supply and establishment of a Fire Department were approved and set into motion. The bid included a Fire Department building and “necessary operating equipment”.
Our first Chief, Marvin J. Nye, also provided the first building to house the department. He was instructed to select a volunteer crew to respond to fires when the water system was ready. The Water Committee determined this to be so on March 15, 1939.
On July 1, 1944, Chief Nye resigned for health reasons, but remained an Honorary Chief and responded as he felt fit. In January 1945, Chief Nye died, leaving the legacy of a well-run department to A.V. (Jack) Gilbert who was appointed Chief.
By 1945, the City boasted a systematic street name system comprised of numbered “Avenues” running North and South, and Named Streets running East and West. Ascending numbers were assigned from South to North and from West to East.
In May of 1945, the Department was moved to a more centrally located building on Long Street owned by Lloyd and Floyd Rapp. This followed after acquisition of new equipment made the previous quarters provided by Chief Nye too cramped. In March of 1947 the Department moved again. This time to a steel “Quonset Hut” structure that sat on the current site of City Hall. This furnished 3 bays for apparatus, and a small meeting room.
By 1950 the population of Sweet Home had grown to 3,603. With the increased population, the added reponses to the Rural District, and the occasional difficulty locating property, means of communication had to be established. The Fire Department obtained two Motorola radios. One to be used as a base station, and the other to be placed in the unit answering rural calls.
January 1, 1952, saw the retirement of A.V. (Jack) Gilbert, and the appointment of Ivan Hoy as Fire Chief. Chief Hoy served until July, 1976, making him the longest tenured Chiefs the Department has ever had. Coupled with his volunteer service dating from the beginning, Hoy contributed 37 years continuous service to the City of Sweet Home and the Sweet Home Fire Department.
In 1954, a new Fire Hall was built, and the Department moved from the Quonset hut. The Quonset hut was relocated to the back of the City property to make way for the new City Hall, and it became the Street Department’s Shop area.
In 1963, following failure of the Standards set by the Oregon Insurance Rating bureau, the 1939 International Pumper was retired. A new Pumper with a 750GPM front mount pump and 1,000 gallon tank was purchased. Acquisition of this new apparatus allowed the reclassification of the Rural District from Class 9-A to Class 8.
1966 brought the annexation of the 22 square mile Crawfordsville area to the Rural Fire District, increasing it to a total of 60 square mile.
1972 saw the Insurance Services of Oregon reclassify the City Fire rating to ISO Class 5. Improvements to the Fire Departments capabilities and the Water Supply enhancements were cited as reason for the reclassification.
1974-1975 was the first year of a cooperative agreement between the City and the East Linn Health District which provided for the hiring of Emergency Medical Technicians to staff the Ambulance. The Ambulance service at that time was part of the Sweet Home Police Department. Funding for the Ambulance service was split between the City and the Health District, with funding being provided on a percentage relative basis. Since 60% of the calls for Ambulance Service were being generated outside the City in the District’s area, they would provide 60% of the funding. The Agreement was executed July 1, 1974.
In December of 1976, the Foster area was annexed into the city, and between that time and 1980 the city increased in area by 130 percent, in population by 80 percent, and the road miles doubled. 1976 also saw the retirement of Chief Ivan Hoy, who joined the Department at its inception. Gerald (Jerry) Wooley was appointed Fire Chief upon Ivan Hoy’s retirement.
The first substation, now Station 23, in Crawfordsville was occupied in July 1977. Until that time it had served as a bus barn for the Crawfordsville Elementary School. The Crawfordsville substation was staffed with a complement of 10 volunteers. This station serves that portion of the district south of the Calapooia River and along Crawfordsville Drive. The building was replaced in 1991 and now houses an engine, a combination Brush Rig/QRT unit, bath/shower facilities, and the department’s restored 1947 Diamond T Engine.
Station 22, the station that serves the Foster area, was dedicated in October, 1983. It was erected on land donated by Jim and Frances Stock in 1982. The Station was built using donations of time, money, and materials from the volunteers and Sweet Home businesses. The resulting two bays which house an engine and a tender, bath facilities, and turnout area.
1985 brought the transfer of the City’s Emergency Medical Technicians from the Police Department to the Fire Department. Reasons cited for the transfer were more opportunities for training, more equitable benefits, and optimization of existing services and facilities. Endorsing the move were the Fire Department, East Linn Health District, Sweet Home Ambulance Advisory Board, and the Public Safety Committee. The transfer was made in December of the same year, with finalization coming in July of 1986.
September 1987 was a turning point for the City of Sweet Home. At that time, Chief Wooley resigned. This brought about the search for the City’s first full-time, paid Fire Chief. This new position required the candidates be capable of overseeing not only the Fire Department, but also performing the additional duties of Senior Paramedic/EMS Coordinator as well. In December, 1987, Joe Mengore was named to fill that position.
The Department provides Fire and Ambulance protection to approximately 7300 people and 300 buildings in the 6.5 square miles comprising the City of Sweet Home. The Department also has an agreement with the Sweet Home Rural Fire Board to provide protection to approximately 5560 people and 2500 buildings in the District’s 55 square mile rural district. Ambulance coverage includes and extends outside of these boundaries to cover approximately 1000 square miles primarily to the East of Sweet Home. Mountainous terrain, multiple waterways, and two large lakes dictate the responders be able to manage many different types of rescue techniques.
The Sweet Home Fire & Ambulance District was formed in November 2000. This consolidated the Rural Fire District, City Fire Department and Ambulance District into one entity. With the District formation, Fire District boundaries increased from 63 square miles to 159 square miles. The “Ambulance Service Area” remains at 1000 square miles. The growth of our new District expanded into some previously unprotected areas of East Linn County for structural fire protection. Station 24 was built in December of 2002 to serve the citizens in the community of Cascadia, Oregon 15 miles East of Sweet Home.
The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District currently serves over 16,000 citizens throughout the district. These citizens are served by a combined staff of 11 full-time personnel and 55 volunteers responding out of 4 stations.
The districts main station was built in 1994. It was funded both by a Community Development Block Grant and a matching funds Bond levy. The main station located at 1099 Long Street houses all offices and paid staff as well as 40 volunteer firefighters and EMT’s.
After 11 years as Fire Chief, Joe Mengore resigned on June 21, 1998. The search for a new chief was underway shortly thereafter. Volunteer Assistant Chief Jim Warner functioned as the departments Interim Chief. On December 10, 1998 Dean Gray was hired as the Cities Fire Chief. Chief Gray resigned in March of 2001.
On April 16, 2001 Mike Beaver was appointed as Chief of the Sweet Home Fire & Ambulance District and retired June 27, 2014.
Fire Chief Dave Barringer was appointed June 27, 2014 and is currently working in that capacity.