Towards the end of the 1940’s the communities of Selleck and Kangley arose from the ashes of once bustling logging and mining areas turned ghost towns after the depletion of their natural resources. The 20 some homes and 2-story schoolhouse of the modest areas offered serene, quiet living, but no kind of fire protection. Thanks to the Selleck Ladies League, who began collecting donations in 1949, a 1926 Howard Cooper was purchased in 1952, and thus the Selleck/Palmer Volunteer Fire Department came into being.
And what a humble beginning it was! Each household paid 50 cents per month to cover gas money and operating expenses for the newly acquired engine. However, there was no station to speak of, so the H.C. was parked in the garage of Selleck native, Dick Jamison. This proved to be auspicious when Jamison’s house later caught fire.
In January of 1962, months before the Cuban Missile Crisis or the death of Marilyn Monroe, 139 people of the Selleck/Palmer area came together and unanimously voted into place King County Fire District #47. The first commissioners of the 26-mile square district were Dick Jamison, Thomas Whitehouse and Truman Nelson. Jamison still serves on the board today.
An acre of land was purchased in Kangley roughly a year after the District was formed. This provided a training ground for the 20 plus volunteers. A station was later erected using lumber from a building on the site of the Howard Hanson Dam. The contractor for the dam negotiated a deal with the District’s volunteers, they could have the lumber if they dismantled the building. The three-bay Kangley station is still in use along with the volunteer-built Kanaskat/Palmer station.
The term “volunteer” was taken to a new level with the District’s early notification system The “call-center” was actually the combination Truman Tavern and Food Store. Whoever answered the call ran a half-block to the station, pushed the siren button and wrote the location on the chalkboard. Truman, who lived in the back of the store, handled the night calls. This system was also in play at the Kanaskat/Palmer station. The one-bay station was located near the post office where the post-mistress held residence. This way of communicating went on until 1970 when the district got their first vehicle-mounted equipment. Finally, the information highway no longer had to be traveled by foot!
In 1976 District #47 expanded its services to include medical aid. The district’s first aid car was a 1968 International retired from District #11. Today medical aid makes up over 80% of their calls.
Currently the District consists of 22 volunteers. A Chief, Assistant Chief, Captain and a Lieutenant, seven firefighters, 8 firefighter/EMT’s (trained as both firefighters and certified Emergency Medical Technicians) and three EMT only’s. When they’re not responding to a call they are working as engineers, teachers, electricians, painters, nurses and many other occupations. Some are even enjoying the livelihood of retirement.
A lot of changes have taken place since the District’s humble beginnings; perhaps most notably is the number of people now living under #47’s jurisdiction. The District covers 26 square miles in Rural Southeast King County and serves over 3000 residents and vistiors. However, one thing remains the same; when that siren goes off the volunteers of King County Fire District #47 drop what their doing, be it mowing the lawn or eating dinner with their families, to come to the aid of their neighbor. And it’s that dedication and selflessness that keeps this area one of the richest places to live.