Steve Fox, an amateur historian and member of the Everett Historical Commission, outside the restored Everett Fire Department building. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Steve Fox, an amateur historian and member of the Everett Historical Commission, outside the restored Everett Fire Department building. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A look at Everett history through firefighting

“Everett was a lumber town, a mill town, and that wood burns,” Historic Everett calendar author Steve Fox said.

EVERETT — Even in black and white, the smoke billowing on Historic Everett’s 2022 calendar cover nearly evokes the heat and smell of the scene.

Historic Everett, a group dedicated to building and artifact preservation, has made the annual publication for 17 years. Over the issues, architects, churches, homes and trains have been featured.

“They’re more of a tabletop book than they are a calendar,” said David Chrisman, the group’s president.

Next year’s spread devotes 15 pages to the history of firefighting in Everett, a town built both of and on wood.

Just don’t expect it to be filled with pictorials of muscle-bound shirtless men.

“Everett was a lumber town, a mill town, and that wood burns,” said Steve Fox, the researcher and writer who crafted the calendar. “The factories they were made in burn. Some of the most spectacular fires were these mills. It put a lot of people out of work. They were pretty horrible events.”

The calendar isn’t solely a 12-month catalogue of tragedies. It also is an ode to the profession and how prominent locations were shaped by firefighting, as well as how the service changed over the past 129 years.

Fox chronicles the early days of Everett’s first volunteer fire department before the city even incorporated in 1892, fire station moves, and updates to equipment.

Photos show firefighters with horse-and-buggy gear — the department’s first motorized vehicle in 1912 — to more modern iterations of fire ladders and trucks seen with Boeing’s first 747 in 1969.

Historic Everett’s 2022 calendar tells the history of firefighting in Everett, from its volunteer start to a modern department of the city that includes emergency medical services. (Historic Everett)

Historic Everett’s 2022 calendar tells the history of firefighting in Everett, from its volunteer start to a modern department of the city that includes emergency medical services. (Historic Everett)

“When the tones ring in the fire house, the Everett Fire Department is going to come and help you,” said Mike Wisler, an Everett Fire Department inspector and president of the Everett Firefighters Association. “That’s been true for a hundred years, and it will be true for the next hundred years.”

Others depict some of the stations, including those no longer sending out response units such as Station 2 on California Street and Oakes Avenue, or Station 4 near Forest Park.

February’s photo shows the old Everett Herald building at 2939 Colby Ave., after a fire was put out Feb. 13, 1956. Three firefighters were hurt that day. The month also has a section about the Feb. 16, 1987 arson that killed firefighter Gary Parks.

The calendar should note history and celebrate the profession without glamorizing, Fox said.

“I didn’t want to celebrate fires,” he said.

One of the most important fires was 1909 when the county courthouse burned down, Fox said. That year had several suspected arsons, including a stable next to the former Station 2 at 3012 Wetmore Ave., where City Hall is now.

In the preceding decade, the population had boomed, but Fox said the fire department budget didn’t keep pace. The result: “The most damaging day in Everett fire history,” he said.

Where firefighting works to save life and property, Historic Everett tries to keep history from oblivion. It advocates for an appreciation of days gone by, the people who lived here and the places that have made it memorable.

“Once you lose those things, it’s gone,” said Chrisman, Historic Everett’s president. “You can’t bring those back.”

The 2022 calendar is available at J. Matheson Gifts, Kitchen and Gourmet at 2615 Colby Ave. Older calendars can be bought from Historic Everett online.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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