History of Our Department

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Gaston Fire Department started its days prior to the actual incorporation of the city itself. The fire department, which was exclusively made up of volunteers, was named the Gaston Volunteer Fire Department and started in 1913. Joseph Gaston convinced then local Alveris Matteson to sell him 20 acres of his property. They flipped a coin to determine whether the town would be called Gaston or Matteson, Joseph won and the city of Gaston was officially incorporated in 1914. Gaston was primed to be a mecca for transportation and commerce as Joseph Gaston, its founder, had speculated. But Joseph was too late to take advantage of the Donation Land Claim Act and due to a competitive loss of railroad rights, the town was bypassed and never became the booming community it was poised for.

 

The history of the Gaston Fire department is similar to several other small rural Oregon communities. Pioneers made their way to Oregon, with the hopes of making a new life for themselves. Some realized this dream, but as the second generation quickly realized, the dream was short-lived. The last of the Oregon settlers had passed away and many of those seeking a better life had found the property to be unaffordable as all the free land was parceled out and new land was too expensive to purchase. These circumstances however did attract people to the surrounding communities of Laurelwood and Cherry Grove which are now two responding communities of Gaston Fire. With the increase of fires due to the types of materials being used to construct them, the locals grew concerned as the community that they helped build, was literally burning down around them. With an earnest and desperate need to mitigate further destruction, the fire department was formed.

 

Through the past 100 years, the department has seen and been a part of several significant moments in Oregon history. Large fires, mysterious murders which gained national attention, and countless field, barn, and other structure fires. The community of Gaston today would be completely foreign to any of the original, second, or third generation of settlers due to the impact of fire and destruction of the day.

 

Service Milestones

 

1913 – Gaston’s first Interim Fire Chief Charles Wescott

1913 – Gaston’s First Official Fire Chief Hermann Krahmer purchases a $497 “Double 35 Gallon Chemical engine”. Later added to a flatbed Dodge truck to become mobilized.

1913 – For $88, Gaston Fire’s First Fire Bell is purchased and put into service. Years later after a siren was acquired, this bell was given to the local Catholic Church. After they were done with it, Gaston volunteers reacquired the bell which is now currently on display in front of the fire station.

1913 – Fire Department located in a barn owned by Chief Krahmer.

1914 – Dam breaches, causing devastation to Cherry Grove residents, also changing the community and its potential future impact as only a few small mills remained and several residents never returned to the area.

1920 – Fire Department moved to Garage of Chief Hermann Krahmer’s building (Currently City Hall)

1929 – Stimson Lumber Opens which creates great excitement for the area bringing in the promise of jobs and a better quality of life for a fledgling community. In the past 80 years of its existence, many firefighters have “cut their teeth” on fires at Stimson Lumber.

1933 – Fire Hydrants arrive in Gaston, the firefighters were not initially trained on their operation and consequently, flooded the downtown area in their attempts to learn their new water delivery system.  

1934 – Gaston Fire acquires a new Dodge Truck which carried 70 gallons of water. This truck which served the District for many years was considered to be a less than sufficient firefighting truck with its limited firefighting capabilities.

April 1934 – Large fire on Front Street consumes Grain Warehouse.

April 3, 1935 – Fire starts in a local pool hall, consumes restaurant and blacksmith shop

1940 – Gaston Fire acquires a 1938 Ford Pumper numbered Engine 1170. This pumper which is currently on a long-term loan agreement with the Oregon Fire Service museum starts a decades-long service record.

July 29th, 1944 – Stimson Mills catches fire, losing the “re-saw and sizing” plant at the mill. Not a complete loss, but certainly a setback which also caused several employees to lose jobs and or relocate out of the area.

1946 – Gaston Rural Fire District created – officially protecting the communities of Cherry Grove and Laurelwood.

1950 - Surplus WWII Air Raid Siren used to beckon volunteer firefighters is used. This siren is still located at the Gaston Fire Hall, only used now for special events.

1968 – The City and Rural Gaston Fire Departments become one entity

1977 First Paid Fire Chief Ron Hoodenpyl. Although this was the first time a Chief was paid to perform the work, Chief Hoodenpyl began as a volunteer for the department in 1959.

August 12th, 1977 – Gaston Fire’s first Conflagration was declared by then Oregon Governor Bob Straub when a factory in Laurelwood caught fire and consumed 550 acres and several buildings.

August 1977 – The 1938 Ford Pumper E1170, returned to service to help with aggressive fire season. 1977 brought extreme heat and low humidity to the areas causing several large, and frequent fires.

November 1983 – Fire strikes at home and the Gaston Fire Department catches fire. The building survives but an engine is severely damaged. This building is the current Gaston Library.

1986 – Gaston’s first official Fire Station is built, which is still the current fire department located at 102 E. Main St.

1996 – Gaston’s first female firefighter, Deon Hoodenpyl joins the department

2015 A Fire Service Cooperative Services study is created for the

City of Forest Grove, Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District, Cornelius Rural Fire Protection District, Gaston Rural Fire Protection District, the City of Cornelius, and Banks Fire District. The study recommends that all

departments pursue a merger and consolidation to improve services.

2015 An intergovernmental agreement is created with the Gaston Rural Fire Protection District for a shared Fire Chief position.

2016 A new addition to the Fire station includes new sleeper quarters, kitchen, storage, office space, and crew living room. The addition is dedicated on August 27th, 2016.

2020 During a very unseasonably dry and windy day in September, The Governor of Oregon declared the Powerline Fire near Hagg Lake a Conflagration. The fire reached 126 acres in size and forced evacuations from those living near the lake including the community of Cherry Grove. In 2020, the State of Oregon would have one of the most destructive years in wildfire history.

2021 Gaston Fire is awarded a Seismic Rehabilitation Grant to provide the station with some major structural upgrades to help mitigate damage from seismic events. The station received a complete external makeover along with some much-needed improvements including new AC system(s), new bay doors, a new roof for the entire facility, new windows and paint throughout.

2022 Gaston Fire ends intergovernmental agreement and begins a new chapter with appointment of a new Fire Chief David Morris.

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