More room for history and training
Crook County Fire and Rescue was outgrowing its main Prineville station.
The space housing its fire engines and firefighter gear was cramped with weight benches and fitness equipment on one side and antique fire engines and apparatus on the other side. Elsewhere in the facility, firefighters would temporarily convert the dormitory area into a structure fire training ground, filled with artificial smoke, as they dragged hose around the building, risking paint scratches and broken objects.
That all changed last summer when renovation of an adjacent building opened a new space to train, work out and show off fire department antiques.
A glass door that opens toward Court Street now provides access to a fire department museum.
"We are working toward getting it so that the front door is open and people will come in and look at it," said CCFR Assistant Chief Mike Wright.
Near that front door sets an 1882 six-man hand pumper. Purchased for $120, the small red piece was shipped around Cape Horn in southern Chile en route to Prineville.
"It took four years to get it here," Wright remarked.
Nearby, an 1884 60-man hand pumper is displayed alongside an accompanying hose cart. A hard copy of the bill of sale is framed and resting on the pumper, revealing that the two items cost the City of Prineville $960 and $225, respectively.
"Because they paid cash, they got $435 knocked off," Wright noted.
Those who explore the room would next find a white ambulance that the fire department purchased in 1946. The display includes a letter written to the Prineville City Council asking for the necessary $2,000 to purchase the vehicle.
Lined up across from the ambulance are three fire engines. A 1932 Chevrolet model was a converted truck that used to haul cattle between Shaniko and Paulina. It was last used to fight the Hudspeth saw mill fire on Independence Day 1967. To the right of that engine is a 1939 Ford that CCFR used until 1973. The most modern engine of the three, a 1966 Western States model, was still fairly new when it was deployed to fight the Ochoco Inn fire.
Fire Chief Matt Smith said that the museum space is open to the public and people are welcome to call the main station and schedule a visit or stop by and ask to see the space.
"We are just trying to take what we have and make sure it is taken care of appropriately and then displayed so the community can see it," he said.
The museum space is bracketed by two other spaces, one of which is committed to physical fitness and the other to firefighter training. The workout room features several new weight benches, nautilus machines and stationary bikes.
"We received a FEMA grant for more than $20,000 in workout equipment," he said. The room is available not only to all firefighters, but to Prineville Police Department and Crook County Sheriff's Office personnel.
While the workout space is important to keep firefighters fit enough to do the job, Smith points that fitness is critical for other reasons.
"It's a difficult job," he said, explaining the firefighters work all hours of the night and face considerable stress. "General fitness and exercise helps the stress level of going to the calls."
The training space at the other side of the building could initially be mistaken for a cubicle-laden office. Gray dividers, donated by Les Schwab Tires, divide the otherwise empty space into different hallways and bedrooms.
Smith said the new setup enables staff to create different settings and arrangements to simulate various structures. They can fill the entire space with artificial smoke and let firefighters practice search and rescue on dummies and work on climbing stairs.
"Practicing structural fires is always hard when there is no fire," Smith said, "but this is something that we can (use to) simulate the low visibility and just dragging hose through a room. … This is a better arrangement."