One hundred and thirty years ago this week, on October 17, 1889, the Seattle Fire Department was created, just a few months after the devastating fire that turned most of the city's downtown into "a horrible black smudge." Gardner Kellogg, a volunteer firefighter since 1870, was named the department's first chief. During his first year on the job, the department built a new headquarters in downtown Seattle (shown above), as well as five new fire stations throughout the city.
Kellogg was an advocate of fire prevention, and he recommended ordinances that placed the responsibility for fire safety on building owners. Businessmen who balked at the increased costs asked for Kellogg's removal, and the chief was fired in 1892. After a few years of political wrangling, Kellogg got his job back in 1896. He remained chief until 1901, when he became the city's fire marshal, a position that allowed him a greater opportunity to focus on fire prevention.