A History of the Bend Fire Department
Bend’s first recorded fire occurred April 27th, 1905 which destroyed the O’Kane Saloon at the corner of Bond and Oregon Streets. A revolver fired by Billy Robinson, who was sleeping on a billiard table at the saloon, signaled the blaze. The fight, led by volunteers of the community, was battled using wet blankets and saved the downtown business section of town. Loss to the saloon was placed at $4,000.
Later in 1905, the City of Bend received its first fire protection system. Costing $1,395.50, the system consisted of street hydrants, hose cart, fire hose, ladders and nozzles. A water tank on Hospital Hill and a ram pump provided pressure in the new city hydrant system for the development of adequate fire streams.
It was on February 24, 1919, by resolution of the City Council, that Bend’s Fire Department was formed. A committee comprised of J.A. Eastes, T.W. Carlon, Carl Johnson, G.H. Baker, Matt Magee, I.V. McAdoo, Charles Silves, Ed Brousterhous, and Clyde McKay is credited with the formation of the fire department.
The first fire chief was Thomas W. Carlon with Fred Ellenburg as the assistant chief. It was Ex Mayor/Ex Judge J.A. Eastes who had worked closely with Tom Carlon to originate the idea and formulate the plan for the fire department. J.A. Eastes is known as Granddaddy of the Department.
In July 1919, the Bend Fire Department received delivery of it’s first motorized apparatus. A Type 12, eight hundred gallon per minute American LaFrance pumper was delivered from A.G. Long Company in Portland, Oregon. It was manufactured in Elmira, New York by the American LaFrance Company, one of America’s oldest and best known fire apparatus builders. This pumper, along with a 1923 GMC ladder truck, became the mainstay of the fire department.
The first real test of the new department and its new pumper came on July 6, 1920 at 12:00 midnight. The Pioneer Garage at Bond and Greenwood, along with Central Oregon Motors, The Band Stand, Moose lodge and DeArmond’s Building were burned with losses in excess of $66,000. The departments performed admirably and saved the remainder of the downtown business district from sure destruction. It was in 1920 that the fire station was built at the intersection of Lava and Minnesota Avenue. The structure remains as a portion of the current main fire station. The station housed two vehicles and was staffed by one on duty person.
Under Chief Thomas W. Carlon’s leadership, the Bend Fire Department became nationally recognized as a superior fire department. The department became a model for numerous other departments throughout the nation. The Carlon legend was initiated as Tom’s son, Vern, joined the department as a volunteer in 1933.
Tom Carlon served the Bend Fire Department as it’s first chief until his death on November 8th, 1943, Leroy Fox who had served the Bend Fire Department since 1922 was immediately appointed Fire Chief. It was Chief Fox and new Engineer Vern Carlon who established advanced training programs for the department and led the department in providing a high level of service to the community. Chief Fox remained Fire Chief of the progressive and rapidly growing department until he resigned on June 20, 1952.
Vern Carlon was appointed the new Fire Chief in June 20, 1952. He was to remain Chief until his retirement on December 31 1973. The department flourished under his command. It was Chief Carlon who helped establish the Deschutes Rural Fire District #2, which contracts with the City of Bend for fire protection in the rural area surrounding Bend. Also, contracts for fire protection were signed with various properties outside the fire district. An ambulance service was established, providing citizens of the greater Bend area with the finest in emergency medical treatment.
With the retirement of Chief Carlon in 1973, Thomas P. Hanson became Bend’s Fire Chief. During his tenure, he guided the department through periods of growth which has seen the population and District boundaries continually expand. Three additional stations were built and additional staff hired to carry out the functions of the ever-expanding department. Throughout these periods of growth the career staff has been supported by an active volunteer force of anywhere from 30-70 members.
Chief Larry Langston was the fifth chief of the Bend Fire Department and served from 1994 to 2008. Chief Langston led this department during a period of tremendous growth in the City of Bend. Due to his strong leadership skills and vision he helped shape the Bend Fire Department into what it is today.
Today the department is under the guidance of Chief Larry Langston. Thoroughly professional and increasingly modern, the department has diversified to provide a variety of services to our citizens and visitors alike.
***NOTE: Text of the department history is excerpted from “A History of the Deschutes Country in Oregon”, published in 1985 by the Deschutes County Historical Society, and printed by Midstate Printing in Redmond, Oregon. Original article by Pete Ribble begins on page 57. Additional historical information can be found at the Deschutes County Historical Societyin Bend, Oregon.