Back in 1953, when the citizens of the South Bay area voted to create a new fire district, about 40 of those citizens also chartered the South Bay Volunteer Fire Department as a volunteer community service organization. In its formal charter dated April 1953, the members of the Department elected Charley Schultz as its first President; Carl Nicely (later Fire Chief) as Vice-President and Herb Lee as Secretary-Treasurer. The 36 members from the South Bay area also elected Al Zittel (later Fire Commissioner) as the first Fire Chief.
This arrangement was usually a family affair. Fathers and sons joined as “firemen” (as the term was then used) while mothers and daughters were active in a separately chartered organization called the Fire Department Auxiliary. Both groups had important roles. All new members were required to be approved by a majority for membership.
While property tax income was collected as it is today, most of the funds to pay bills for day-to-day operations and equipment were raised from bingo games, “slave auctions,” dances and bake sales. Slave auctions entailed raffling off eligible bachelor and bachelorettes! Each member also paid dues to be a member of the Department. At that time there was also a fund-raising competition among the various volunteer Fire Departments in Thurston County. Eventually, in the late fifties and early sixties, The Thurston County Fireman’s Association was formed as an active group that sponsored many social and fund raising events throughout the county.
Over time, the Department evolved into a more social and less fundraising organization with Department operations relying more and more on tax money revenues. During the late sixties and early seventies, the South Bay Fireman’s Association opened up its membership to community members as well as volunteers in the Department. Often, entire families would attend the monthly meetings with potluck dinners, entertainment and frequently, beverages of varying degrees. The volunteers continued to elect the Fire Chief until 1975 when the Board of Fire Commissioners assumed the role of appointing authority. In the eighties, the Association changed to a more support function for the District. Membership was restricted to volunteer members that were also responders.
The current South Bay Firefighters’ Association remains as the vital social link between our volunteers and the official District governmental functions.
Joint Efforts with the FD7 North Olympia District
On November 4th, the voters of North Olympia Fire District 7 approved Proposition 1 (proposal to merge with South Bay Fire District 8) by a majority of 76%, and approved Proposition 2 (proposal to raise the 2015 tax levy rate to $1.50 per $1k of assessed valuation) by 63%. The approval by voters culminates a long-term effort to consolidate the two fire districts. With both Boards of Fire Commissioners working together to combine governance, and staff working together to integrate administrative and operational functions, the districts merged effective January 1, 2015.
During the process of planning for merger, the Boards of both fire districts jointly adopted an Emergency Services Integration Plan (“ESIP”) which outlined the various areas in which both districts would need to work to come together.