Book Review: Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, by Ray Pitz

This book is a strange book for many reasons. For one, it is a book of photographic history, consisting of black and white photographs from various archives along with captions. For another, its name and contents do not necessarily agree very much. The book is titled Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, but this is the contemporary name of a consolidation of many other fire districts. A chart showing the history of this process of consolidation is shown at the beginning and it explains the contents of the book well: In 1935 the Stafford-Wilsonville Fire Department merged with the Tigard, Stafford, and King City Fire Departments to form the Tualatin Rural Fire Protection District. In 1972 the Cedar Mill Fire Department, West Slope Fire Department, and Beaverton Rural Fire Protection District merged into Washington County Fire District #1. In 1989, these two districts combined to form Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, and since then additional districts have merged or been annexed: the Valley View Water District and the Multnomah County Fire districts #4 and #20 in 1995, the City of Beaverton Fire Department in 1996, Rosemont in 2001 and the City of West Linn Fire Department in 2004. The resulting complex history is that few of the contents of the book actually are about the fire department on the title.

The contents of this book are divided into five chapters that take up under 130 pages: Beaverton Fire Department, Tualatin Rural Fire Protection District, Washington County Fire district No. 1, West Linn Fire Department, and Behind the Scenes. The photos themselves are what most people would expect, and a good deal besides that. There are photos of hose drills, fire trucks and early ambulances, house-burning exercises, actual fires, a downed plane, and even pot lucks. The stories and captions are quite intriguing as well, including fascinating stories of firemen fighting fires in their off-duty hours because they happen to see trouble, and a fireman who is too much of a hurry and didn’t put on his fire protective jacket before attacking a fire at Beaverton High School and ending up with the top half of his body covered in second and third degree burns, as well as the sad story of a fireman who was killed by a driver while playing guitar in front of the fire station. There are also a lot of portrait photos of fire chiefs.

So what is the value of this book? It presents a slice of Oregon history [1] that is often not recognized, namely the efforts of fire and rescue agencies to serve the public. There are other elements of worth here, some of them political in nature. The book talks up the first women and first hispanic firefighters hired by the department, but that cannot hide the fact that this particular book is full of photos of white guys fighting fires. There is precious little in the way of diversity to be found here, unfortunately. Additionally, the book is testament to the fact that economies of scale have made it necessary for many fire departments to merge in the face of budget shortfalls and the search for efficiency in that light. This book is testament to the fact that many small cities in the area, even including areas as large as Beaverton, a city of nearly 100,000 people, simply do not have a large enough tax base to support their own fire departments, making Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue the largest such department in the state of Oregon, and a sign of the larger problems that regions and municipalities have to deal with.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Oregonian Railway | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Oregon State Penitentiary | Edge Induced Cohesion

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