Smoke poured through a hole in the roof of a rustic building in Everett’s Port Gardner neighborhood. As firefighters worked in the midday sun, 79-year-old John Estie stood by with other onlookers.
Taking in the scene Tuesday, Estie said, “104 years up in smoke.”
It was no emergency but rather live-fire training near the intersection of Nassau and 34th streets. Yet for Everett’s Boy Scout Troop 1, the smoke was visible evidence of the end of an era. Chartered in 1914 by Everett Elks Lodge No. 479, Troop 1 is no more.
Benjamin Hayes, Troop 1’s most recent scoutmaster, said membership had slipped to three by the end of November 2018. The troop was part of Boys Scouts of America’s Mount Baker Council.
To qualify as a troop, at least five members are needed, said Chris Wojahn, chairman of the council’s Salish Sea District. The district covers an area from the King-Snohomish county line “roughly up through Everett,” Wojahn said.
Those 104 years mentioned by Estie, the Elks’ former liaison to the youth group, referred to 1914-2018, the continuous history of Troop 1, and not the age of its “Scout Shack.” Now in need of demolition by the Elks, the building that hosted Scout meetings has its own local history.
The World War II-era barrack, which is partly on a city right-of-way, was at Paine Field before being donated to the Elks. With the owner of an adjacent third-of-an-acre lot planning to build a house near the old building, the former Scout Shack will be torn down.
For a time before being moved to its current site, Scouts used it at a different location — California Street and Grand Avenue. That’s where, in 1959, The Everett Herald opened a building. The Daily Herald is now on 41st Street, and the barrack that long served the Scouts is helping the Everett Fire Department.
Everett Fire Chief Dave DeMarco said it will be used through Thursday, so that four platoons from the department have time to “practice a contents fire.” Wood pallets were hauled inside and set ablaze as part of the exercise. With no intention of burning the place down, DeMarco added, “we hope the building is still standing.”
Firefighters are required by law to take part in live-fire training every three years, DeMarco said. With the Elks making the Scout Shack available, the department doesn’t have to transport crews and equipment to the state’s fire training facility near North Bend.
The exercise, in a realistic but controlled environment, includes extinguishing, ventilating and searching techniques, DeMarco said.
“It’s a win-win,” said Marge Huleatt, exalted ruler of the Everett Elks Lodge. Greg Tisdel, a trustee with the Elks, was arranging for a tear-down permit when someone in the fire department saw a training opportunity, she said.
Estie was in a different Scout troop while growing up in Everett.
At 90, Elks member William Vincent was there watching as about a dozen firefighters use hoses and other equipment at the shack. Local historian Jack O’Donnell, whose son Jeff was once in Troop 1, was there, too. O’Donnell recalled the Scouts hosting a haunted house there one Halloween.
“I’m just sad to see the Boy Scouts go,” said neighbor John Blaine. A former Boy Scout, Blaine said his now 30-year-old son, Christopher, became an Eagle Scout with Troop 91 in Snohomish.
“I am very sad to see the old shack go,” said Wojahn, who was part of Troop 1 as a boy. The Salish Sea District’s chairman said he and his wife now sponsor BSA 90, which has Cub Scouts, a coed Venturing group and Sea Scouts. Troop 1, he said, “will be missed.”
“They needed five youth and five adults to charter for 2019,” Wojahn said. “This can be a challenge as some neighborhoods age and demographics change.”
In its woodsy setting, on the edge of a ravine where a house will soon be built, boys once gathered around a fire ring.
Now, as firefighters use the place for practice, the Salish Sea District has 2,500 youth in nearly 100 units — 45 packs, 39 troops, five Venture Crews, three Sea Scout ships, four Learning for Life law enforcement units, plus three new Scout units serving girls.
Hayes, Troop 1’s former leader, is a 32-year-old manager with the Boeing Co. In 2017, he helped Troop 1 host an open house at the shack in hopes of raising awareness and money to renovate the building.
Now, he’s about to get married and has “kind of taken a step back” from scouting. Kids in his group stayed involved and found other troops, he said.
“It was a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Hayes said. “I was trying to give back, but they taught me more than I thought.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.