Walla Walla County is located in the southeast portion of Washington State. The current population of the County is 58,300 people.16,995 residing in the unincorporated portions of the County. The unincorporated portion of the County is projected to grow to approximately 20,052 people by 2020.
Burbank has 3,380 people. Rural communities within the Fire District include Wallula with 197 people, Sun Harbor with 200 people. Total population within the fire district’s 92 square mile boundaries is approximately 4,088.The Burbank community covers approximately 18 square miles. The communities of Burbank and Burbank Heights are essentially bisected by the McNary National Wildlife Refuge and Recreation Area that covers approximately 5,000 acres.
The Fire District boundaries are the Snake River north of Highway 124, South on Highway 12 to the intersection of Oregon State Highway 730, and east on State Highway 124, 11 miles east of Burbank Heights. However the fire district does cover some portions of Walla Walla County Fire District 3 and District 6 with Fire/Rescue response, Basic and Advanced Life Support Transport when needed. The majority of this hundred square mile area is rural zoned.
DISTRICT GOVERNANCE AND STAFFING:
Fire District 5 is administered by a Board of Fire Commissioners- three elected officials for six-year terms on a staggered schedule (every two years). The Board appoints the Fire Chief (a full-time career position) who manages the day-to-day operations of the district. The Fire Chief appoints the staff of officers for the fire district, some of which are full-time and some are volunteer. Currently, there are 3 full-time career officers, an Assistant Chief , two career LT/Paramedics, one full-time Administration Assistant, 6 part-time resident-firefighters, twenty part-time volunteer firefighters, and three support service members.
The community of Burbank is situated at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers in western Walla Walla County. It originally platted in 1910 by the Burbank Power and Water Company. The town site of Burbank is the oldest surviving community in the County on the Columbia River. The nature of the area was dramatically altered in 1953 with the construction of the McNary Dam, creating Lake Wallula. The construction of the dam either submerged or displaced the original communities of Wallula, New Wallula, Attalia, Two Rivers, and Villard, while only a small portion of the town site of Burbank was displaced.
FORMATION OF FIRE DISTRICT 5:
A major incentive for formation of a fire district in western Walla Walla County was a fire in 1949. The fire burned enough of the Snake River Bridge to render it unusable, requiring replacement. It was said to have started from a vehicle dragging a burning mattress. Local people who responded reported that the highway department refused permission to tear up the wood decking to stop the progression of the fire to control it. The Loss of this bridge caused a major hardship for the area residents, most of whom worked and shopped in the Tri-Cities. They moved cars to the Franklin county end of the NP Railroad Bridge by way of the Umatilla-Plymouth Ferry and walked across the bridge. Local people felt that a fire brigade might have been able to save the bridge. In 1952 they took the necessary steps to form a fire district, elected a board of commissioners and passed an operations levy. They also passed a bond issue to finance apparatus and building a fire station.
The first pumper and its equipment was furnished by Civil Defense. The County Planner laid out the district boundaries. The bank, which bought the bond wanted reassurance that there would be people to operate the district. During the summer of 1954,A sheet of wrapping paper asking for volunteers to sign up was posted on the wall of Galloway’s Market. The first station is now part of the Mosquito Control District Complex. The first piece of apparatus was a 1954 GMC with 750 GPM pump and 750 gallon tank.
The District really got into operation in 1955. The only irrigation was Columbia Irrigation Block 2 (Burbank Heights). Almost everything else outside of Burbank and Wallula was dry land wheat and winter sheep range. Old Wallula, Attalia, small irrigated farms along the lower Walla Walla River, and small holdings along the Columbia River were flooded out in 1954 by Lake Wallula. Overgrazing and abandoned farms from two defunct irrigation projects had reduced almost all vegetation in the district to cheat grass and related desert vegetation. Wildland fires accounted for most of the fires. One big problem in fighting Wildland fires with the GMC was the light, dry sand in most of the district. The rig would pull onto the fire line, wet down a little fire and get stuck.
Everyone would grab shovels, put the fire out, then dig out the pumper.
Communications were very primitive back then. There was a directory for phone numbers throughout the district. If there was a fire emergency you could call the McNary Game Range headquarters, Fire Chief’s residence, or Galloway’s Grocery store. The Game Range got most of the calls because they were the first on the list. Whoever took the call went to the fire station, started the siren, opened the door and started the pumper engine. They wrote down the address or area on a chalk board. When enough personnel were ready, no matter how small the crew, they responded. Since there was no dispatching center, they had little need for radio communications.