HVFD Vignettes


When did the Haines Volunteer Fire Department really organize?

The citizens of Haines, Alaska voted to become an organized town in January 1910.

The Haines Pioneer Press Friday, October 7, 1910

Volunteer Fire Department Organizes

"The Fire Department held a well-attended meeting at Banta's laundry Sunday October 2) afternoon in an attempt to perfect the organization. The Foremen of the different companies were instructed to organize their companies to be ready for an emergency. A committee of three was appointed to draught by-laws, rules and regulations regarding the government of the department. The meeting adjourned and the members visited the fire hydrants and familiarized themselves with the locations. Fire Chief Banta presided at the meeting."

The Haines Pioneer Press. January 20th, 1912.

Haines Organizes Fire Department

"On last Saturday evening, a meeting was held at the AB Hall for the purpose of organizing a Volunteer Fire Department. A large crowd attended the meeting. After many short talks had been given by prominent businessmen, showing the need of such an organization, a Fire Department was organized. William Benson was unanimously elected Chief of the new department. The City Councilmen have all agreed to sanction the election of Mr. Benson. The firemen will hold another meeting soon after the next Council meeting for the purpose of electing a foreman, secretary, and treasury. Mr. George Hinchman acted as Secretary at the meeting. Much enthusiasm was displayed at the first meeting and it is thought that the new institution will grow rapidly until every able-bodied man in town will be a member."

Ordinance No. 4 August 2, 1915

AN ORDINANCE TO PROVIDE FOR FIRE PROTECTION AND A FIRE DEPARTMENT AND TO ESTABLISH FIRE LIMITS WITHIN THE INCORPORATED TOWN OF HAINES, ALASKA.

This ordinance established the Haines Volunteer Fire Department consisting "of all the hose and hook and ladder, bucket, engine and all other companies, and all apparatus pertaining to the Fire Department..." "The Town Supervisor of Waterworks shall be Ex-Officio Fire Warden of the Town of Haines..."

This ordinance also effectively established a town building code as it specified how flues and chimneys, stovepipes, floors and walls were to be protected, how ashes were to be deposited and how hazardous materials (hay, straw, explosives, etc.) were to be stored.

Signed by James Fay, Ex-officio Mayor and Steve Sheldon, Town Clerk


What piece of fire department equipment lies under 2000' of water?

Frank Wallace, Fire Chief for many of his 35 years on the department: "That particular piece of property is a new Ford Falcon station wagon. Eight of us had gone to Skagway (There is no road between Haines and Skagway) on the ferry for an oil-control school. We took what little bunk gear we owned and our little fire car that we were so proud of, with the red light on top.

On the way home, the ferry schedule did not work for us, so we left the car and members that owned airplanes flew the rest of us back to Haines. Well, the mate on the ferry thought that was a great thing. So he ran the car down onto the boat, with the siren and red lights going, ran clear around the parking deck circle, and parked it cross-wise in the ship. The ferry always had the doors open when they came back from Skagway. Coming into dock in Haines, they made the turn out there by Schnabel Lumber Company and the ferry lay over quite a bit. That little Falcon was just a 3-speed, and the mate had put it in gear but not set the emergency brake. It rolled out the door and sunk right in front of all the tourists' eyes and that poor Mate and the Skipper and the whole works. It was not worth salvaging so they paid us for the damages."


What happened to I.B. Howser during a fire at the Harbor Bar?

Carl Heinmiller tells this story: "The Harbor Bar was built over the old dock that extended past Main St. far from shore and has not been used since '39. When the bar was built, Harry Ellengen boarded under the stringers of the dock and filled up gaps between the stringers with sawdust for insulation. The bathroom sat out over high tide. As there wasn't any plumbing, whatever fell, just went right down into a sump in the bay. When the tide came in, the toilet was flushed.

Somebody went to the outhouse and dropped a cigarette between the decking and caught the sawdust on fire. Soon there was an enormous amount of smoke filling the bar. Ellengen set up about ten glasses, saying, "The place is burning down. Drink up." Most customers ran out. Not Jim McGhee, a steady at the bar. He sat on the foot rail and reached over his head to grab a glass and slung it down. He continued down the foot rail in a seated position reaching for glass after glass.

We brought our fire truck with a 100 pound pump on it and we were trying to find out where the fire was located. Chief I.B. Howser ran down underneath the fire on the beach and fell down into the sump hole. He was making quite a lot of noise about "Pull me out of here." I had a five-cell flashlight so I held that down to him and pulled him out. It was in March and it was rather chilly to say the least. He screamed to the guy with the high-pressure hose, "Don't stand there, just wash me down." The young red headed fireman holding the nozzle proceeded to spray him in the stomach. That icy cold water literally rolled him down the beach."

From an oral history interview with Carl Heinmiller and a short story by Carl in Haines Pioneer Voices Ð2 "Frost on the Steampipe".