Olympia’s first fire fighting unit, Barnes’ Hook and Ladder Brigade, was organized in the early 1850’s. Columbia Number 1, the first fire engine company to be established in Washington Territory, was formed in Olympia in 1865. Olympia’s first salaried fireman was hired in November 1889. By 1930, the Fire Department employed nine fire fighters and an electrician.
Growing in Numbers
In 1959, the Olympia Fire Department initiated a three-platoon system to meet the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and added seven firefighters, for a total of 27. In 1968, 12 more firefighters were hired to staff the Eastside and Westside substations, which opened due to population growth and annexations, bringing the total number of firefighters to 39. In 1975, the Westside Station was closed to reassign personnel to a newly created Fire Prevention Bureau, boost staffing at the Eastside Station, and establish a Fire Mechanic’s position. The Department established the Fire Prevention Bureau to fulfill its legal obligations under the Uniform Fire Code as part of the Washington State Building Code and Standards Act. In 1978 the Westside Station was re-opened with existing staffing.
In 1987, six firefighters were hired to staff an aid unit at the Westside Station, which increased total staffing to 46. To reduce the firefighter workweek to 53 hours and comply with a change in the fair Labor Standards Act, three firefighters were hired in 1988.
The Thurston County Medic 1 System was initiated in 1974. Through an Intergovernmental agreement, the Olympia Fire Department hired six paramedic firefighters. In 1976 an additional paramedic was hired to improve the supervision of the paramedics. In 1988 an eighth paramedic was hired to comply with the reduction in work hours required by the Fair Labor Standard Act. In 1993 a ninth paramedic was hired to balance the three shifts and eliminate the need for paramedics to float. The Westside SPRINT unit was opened in 2000, and four paramedics were hired due to lengthening response times in the Northwest portion of the county. Following the earthquake, February 28, 2001, the SPRINT unit was temporarily converted to a full medic unit due to the closure of the 4th Avenue bridge. In January 2002 Medic 10 was changed from a temporary status to a permanent status and 3 additional paramedics were hired. At this time Olympia Fire Department currently employs 18 field paramedics, three of which are Paramedic Lieutenants.
Today, the City of Olympia Fire Department (OFD) is an all-career department with 100 members total. The department deploys four engines, one ladder truck, two medic units and a battalion unit. The engines and truck are staffed with three firefighters and an officer, while the medic units are staffed with two firefighter/paramedics. At minimum staffing, there is a full complement of 20 members on duty. OFD covers approximately 25 square miles and in 2019, responded to 13,810 calls for service.