History of GHFD #8
By Vivian Matsen and Shari Curtright
After a large fire in Moclips, in 1959, Bill Zack and Roy Tottie talked to the Aberdeen Fire Department to find out how they might start a fire department in the Moclips/Aloha/Pacific Beach area.
The Aloha Lumber Company purchased the first fire truck, an old GI rig, and the first ambulance “the Blue Bomb” – an old Chevy Suburban. The company kept the truck in a garage in Aloha (across from the tavern). Later, the company gave the district the garage and it was sometime afterward that the commissioners discovered the district owned the building but not the land. ITT Rayonier owned the land.
Eventually, the bus garage at the old Moclips school (at the bottom of the hill) was used as a fire truck garage until a new garage was built near the river. The property was given to the ‘Moclips Community Club’, and later they turned it over to the fire department.
Some of the first fire department members included Jim Harvey (who was a first aid instructor), Bob Harper, & (Wild) Willie Whitbeck. Most of the fire and ambulance crew were from the Aloha mill and could assist while on the job. It was indeed a “scoop and run” affair. The highest certification for the ambulance crew was Basic First Aid, until the State stepped in later and required higher certification.
In the ’60’s, a fire hall was built in Pacific Beach. All three fire halls, Pacific Beach, Moclips, and Aloha were used until the new fire station was built, in 2002.
In 1978 the State mandated that the ambulance crew had to increase their medical certification qualification level to “Advanced First Aid”.
In 1979 a group of community members attended an EMT class, the first for this district. At that time there were about 10 ambulance crew members which included Myrna Figg, Chris Walthers, Kathy Balaki, Linda and Larry Shelton, Bob Webb, and Marion Keeney. Lolly Roberts attended the first or second EMT class also. There were 5 local dispatchers at the time and you could say they were the pioneers of “networking”. There was one emergency phone number and 5 dispatchers, whoever happened to pick up the phone first, dispatched the ambulance.
Sometime between 1979 and 1980, The Aloha mill gave the community/fire dept. “the Blue Bomb”.
In 1980 the community bought a red and white Dodge Van ambulance from Quinault Fire Dept. for around $3,000 to $5,000. It replaced the Blue Bomb and was used from 1980 to 1983.
In 1983 the district bought a brand new 1983 Braun ambulance for about $55,000, through a bond levy. Vivian Matsen and Pat Davis traveled to Ohio to bring it back. The District also purchased the first real fire truck (8701). The 1984 pumper is still in use and looks and works great!
In 1984 a rebuilt 1978 model water tender, with a holding capacity of 3,000 gallons, was purchased.
In 2002 the new community center/ fire station was built, by the overwhelming support of the community, through their approval of a tax levy.
In 2004 the communities of Moclips, Aloha, Pacific Beach, and Seabrook, again generously supported the district in obtaining a brand new 2004 Braun ambulance through donations and grants. The brand new ambulance was delivered to the Fire Hall by Patti Courtright and Leaha Montano from the manufacturer in Centralia.
In 2010 a refurbished 1994 water tender was purchased to replace our worn and declining 1978 tender. The newer apparatus holds 3,300 gallons of water and has an automatic transmission, a wonderful deviation from the obstinate Mac truck stick shift and clutch. The new tender was paid for with proceeds generated from 2 Firemen’s balls.
In 2011 a couple of milestones occurred. Neighboring districts of (#7) Copalis/Ocean City, (#16) Copalis Crossing, and our district implemented an “automatic aid” agreement for fire and accident incidents. If one district is dispatched to a fire or accident, the other districts are notified and either respond to the scene or standby to assist if needed.
A Class-A pumper was purchased to replace aged & borrowed apparatus. Two of our Fire Captains, Brian (Ditch Boy) Shelley & Ralph (The Hammer) Rangel, drove the pumper from Mississippi to its new home in 4 days during the spring of 2011. The pumper holds 1,000 gallons and is the Cadillac of our fleet. The apparatus is being paid off by proceeds from the Firemen’s ball.
This year (2014) a “pre-loved” 75 foot Quint Aerial (ladder) truck was purchased to accommodate the ever increasing number of multi-story buildings in the area. The massive machine was driven back from Connecticut during Winter’s wrath, by Chief Collum & his wife, EMS Captain Cathie Bisiack. A monumental task considering it was one of the worst east coast winters recorded. The Quint is being paid through a local bond levy and will be outfitted using Firemen’s ball funds.
From 1989 through 2013, the ambulance had responded to an average of 141 calls per year, with the lowest year comprising of 113 calls and the highest 176. The ambulance department had been staffed with between 4 and 10 EMTs throughout the same time period. We had 8 EMTs, which included 2 new technicians that went through the extensive 5 month training last year (2013).
During the period between 1959 & 2005, the Fire Department had approximately 224 volunteer members. These 224 put in an average of about 4 1/2 years in the department, with a term range of less than a year to 40 years.
The number of Fire Department members over the years, has ranged from 11 to 39. At the moment we have 19 volunteers and 2 recruits who are in the process of joining the department.
Grays Harbor Fire District #8 personnel appreciate the community for generously supporting the department with continual bond levy approvals and Firemen’s Ball donations. The money generated from these has helped obtain necessary fire and ambulance response equipment and training aids (such as AED trainers); helped maintain required upgrades of bunker and SCBA gear; assisted personnel to keep current with technical training; and has helped provide improved equipment to benefit the health and welfare of our volunteer personnel (e.g. a battery operated hydraulic gurney). Thank you for helping us to help others.