Pursuing Excellence Since 1940
Spokane Valley Fire Department has a tradition of service and excellence dating back over 80 years. Our commitment to the safety, health and well-being of communities remains steadfast as we constantly strive to improve in every way.
On November 14, 1939, The Board of the Spokane County Commissioners adopted a Resolution to hold an election on Tuesday, March 12, 1940, to determine if the Spokane Valley Fire Protection District No. 1 should be formed, and for the election of its first Fire Commissioners. On March 12, more than two-thirds of the votes cast were in favor of the formation and E.G. Kenney, F.R. Salter, and D.R. Meigs received the highest number of votes for Fire Commissioner. The Spokane Valley Fire Protection District No. 1 was officially approved by another Resolution of the Board of the Spokane County Commissioners on March 22, 1940.
J.R. Bittle was the first fire chief to be appointed on December 1, 1940, by the Fire Commissioners. Chief Bittle left the department in September 1942, and Bassil George was appointed as the next chief. America was at war which resulted in interim chiefs filling in for Chief George while he was on military duty. There was also a significant turnover in firefighters during this period of time. Since Chief George’s service to the community, there have been eleven additional fire chiefs.
On December 5, 1940, the Greenacres Station received three (unknown year) Ford Mercury Seagrave fire engines. The Orchard Avenue Station was built next and was located at Park and Utah. Engine 2 began responding out of the new station in May 1941. Engine 1 began responding out of the Dishman Station located on Sprague Avenue at about Marguerite in November 1941. The fire station was inherited from the County Fire Department. This one County Station had previously responded to all fires within Spokane County. By the end of 1941, the Spokane Valley Fire Protection District No. 1 employed eleven firefighters that worked 48 hours and were off 24 hours.
Today the Spokane Valley Fire Department has ten fire stations and employs 165 firefighters that work 24 hours and are off 48 hours.
The boundaries of the Spokane Valley Fire Department cover approximately 75 square miles; the western boundary is Havana Street and the eastern boundary is the Idaho State Line. In 1940 the population within the District’s boundaries was approximately 10,000 and today the population served is approximately 140,000. For many years the service area within the District was an unincorporated part of Spokane County. Today the Spokane Valley Fire Department provides emergency services and programs to the cities of Liberty Lake, Spokane Valley and Millwood (all of whom annexed into the District at various times over the past ten years) and surrounding unincorporated areas of Spokane County.
Mako The Arson Dog
Mako, an eighteen month old Labrador Retriever from Michigan, along with Assistant Fire Marshal Rick Freier, completed a four week training course in the state of Maine where Mako had been certified as an accelerant detection canine.
In the fall of 2009, the department completed and submitted an application to State Farm for consideration. It was reviewed and accepted in December 2009.
The training was sponsored by State Farm Insurance, conducted by Maine Specialty Dogs, and certified by the State of Maine Criminal Justice Academy. State Farm Insurance funded all costs involved in this program which included: acquiring the dog, training fees at the Maine Specialty Dogs, room and board for Mako and Assistant Fire Marshal Freier, and transportation to and from Maine. State Farm Insurance started the program in 1992 and has sponsored 250 dogs in 43 states and Canada. Mako is their only dog in Eastern Washington and one of 75 State Farm dogs currently working in the country. A total of nine K-9 teams were trained in 2010.
Assistant Fire Marshal Freier, a certified fire investigator, and Mako teamed up to investigate fires in our coverage area, and in certain instances assisted other fire departments with their fire investigations. Mako was trained to “sniff” out accelerants—flammable liquids such as gasoline and kerosene that arsonists use to start fires. Evidence would then be collected and used to assist prosecutors in the prosecution of arson cases. Mako worked many fire scenes but not all of them were caused by arson. It was important to expose the dog to many types of fires.
Local State Farm insurance agents and veterinary services from Keith Clark of Pet Vet Hospital assisted in the ongoing costs and care of Mako.
Mako and Assistant Fire Marshal Freier also worked in the area of public education. They believed the best way to protect the citizens of the district was to prevent fires from happening. You could see them at local schools or at community events promoting fire safety.
Mako the Arson Dog passed away on December 7th, 2022. Whether he was investigating a fire or helping teach kids about fire safety, Mako was a beloved member of the SVFD family who made a difference here in our community.
From Ashes to Answers
The National Fire Dog Monument (NFDM) is a nationally approved 501(c) (3) non-profit. The NFDM was created to build the Certified Accelerant Detection K-9s a bronze monument to acknowledge them for their service to the communities where they serve. These dogs do not ask for anything in return after risking their lives to reduce the negative impact of arson in their communities. The monument design is a standing fire fighter looking down on his Labrador Retriever, who is looking back up at his handler ready to work. The monument is titled “From Ashes to Answers”. The monument is inspired by Colorado’s first Arson Dog Erin, who recently lost her battle with cancer. The monument will reside at a fire station in Washington D.C.