Fire Protection

Our History

"Building the future on the foundation of our past"

Back in 1917 Bill Boeing wrote the City of Seattle water department in request for fire hydrants. "The work conducted therein consists largely of wood working, linen work, enameling, etc; we also use large quantities of varnish, paint, dope (varnish for wing coverings), all of which are highly inflammable materials."

"We are situated at a considerable distance from the nearest fire station, and are naturally desirous of protecting our plant in every way possible."

Since the time that Bill Boeing wrote that letter, fire protection has taken on many different looks in the 70 plus years. But the Boeing Fire Department did not make its official debut until 1943. This is our history, our legacy and our foundation.

Motorcycle carrying buckets of water to fight fires

Twenty years after Bill Boeing's letter, the company was roaring to life with the B-17, Clipper and Stratoliner. It was made clear -- by customer and insurance demands -- that the simplistic methods of fighting fires, with buckets of water, fire extinguishers, barrels of water and fire sprinklers; were no longer adequate to protect employees, buildings and products. This was a result of the rapid expansion in Seattle and Wichita.

The company established a fire department as a unit under the Plant Protection Department (Guards), and paved the way for the first ever organized volunteer fire department in Seattle and Wichita. In 1940, the department maintained and operated plant fire fighting equipment and was in charge of fire prevention. At about this same time Boeing received its first fire trucks from the Air Force, a provision that was folded into airplane contracts.

First fire trucks from the Air Force

Glenn Dierst, who headed the Plant Protection Department, hired Frank Harshfield to run the fire department. Harshfield had impressive credentials, serving 25 years with the Seattle Fire Department. Soon after Harshfield arrived, plans were made for the organization of volunteer fire units among employees at each of three plants. Employees were trained in the operation of fire fighting equipment, and special instructions were given to employees about the importance of eliminating fire hazards.

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This page was updated on 02/02/2003.

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