The birth of what has become the Mercer Island Fire Department began during World War 2. The Island's Civilian Defense Group established a firefighting group responsible for protection from the effects of the war. The headquarters station was located in the garage of Nelson Rochester, which was near the East Channel bridge.
The first equipment for the firefighters included a hand-pulled hose reel, and several 5-gallon hand pump-cans.
Soon the Island population growth necessitated a higher level of fire protection. Islanders William Moore, Charley Landis, and Nelson Rochester became a committee with a mission to create a Fire District. On July 15, 1944 an election was held and Islanders voted 196 to 27 to create a new Fire District. Committee members were also elected as the District Fire Commissioners. This new fire district became Fire District 21.
The first piece of fire apparatus was purchased in 1948 -a GMC fire engine. With no building to house the new engine, local veterinarian and fire district supporter, Dr. William Green provided his garage as a storage location.By 1945 Fire Commissioners had secured enough funding to construct the Island's first fire station. The two-bay station was built on a triangular lot located at the corner of SE 27th and 76th Ave SE. Today the former fire station is home to private business.
This fire station was designed by the Island's first Fire Chief - Henry Borgendale, a building engineer by trade. The cost of the new station was $12,000.
Requests for the fire department's services were first provided via a telephone tree. Wives of volunteer firefighters would answer the home phone(s) and pass along the request to other volunteer's wives.
In 1955 it was apparent that a new fire station was needed. It was decided that the new fire station would be built at 3030 78th Ave Se - the site of the current Headquarters Station.
During this period, Island politics were in full swing. Part of Mercer Island became incorporated, while part remained a town for a short time. This challenged the Fire District in regards to authority. But no matter the call, the department always responded.
Soon after incorporation in July 1960, the Fire District was dissolved and the fire department became a municipal entity. Chief Henry Borgendale was unable to keep up with the needs of the department, due to his own business, and soon resigned. The department's Assistant Chief, Harry Slater, became the new Fire Chief of the department. His first order of business was the design and construction of the new fire station planned for the 78th Ave site. By this time Mercer Island had purchased another GMC fire engine. (insert scanned photo of engine and station).
The first major fire the department responded to was a new apartment complex under construction - The Blue Sky Vista apartments. The fire could be seen for miles. Seattle Fire Chief, Bill Fitzgerald, came to give a hand in the firefighting operation. The Bellevue Fire Department also provided two fire engines.
Growth at the south end of Mercer Island soon necessitated the need for fire protection in that area. Plans for a south-end fire station were soon completed. The new station was built in 1961 and housed two fire engines.
Historical information courtesy of "The Fire Districts of King County", by Harold Hoyt.
Published in 1990 by Frontier Publishing, Seattle."