Seattle's Last Resort Fire Department needs to be rescued

SEATTLE -- More than 12 decades of Seattle Fire Department artifacts, memorabilia and antique trucks are in jeopardy.

The Last Resort Fire Department is the keeper of 125 years of Seattle fire history, but the Ballard nonprofit needs a lifeline.

"It's history. It's like an icon, like the Space Needle," said Galen Thomaier, Last Resort's collector and historian.

Tucked between two businesses on a Ballard side street, the site plays home to a treasure trove of Seattle Fire Department history. When the department's floor-to-ceiling sliding doors are open, onlookers can't help but be drawn in by the shiny red machines.

Packed in like sardines, the 12 relics from the past are like new again.

"This rig was purchased in 1913, along with two other ladder trucks. It's 101 years old this year," Thomaier said.

It's the oldest surviving motorized fire apparatus and, like each rig at Last Resort, it's fully restored and in working condition

"We do birthdays for little kids, we go to their house give kids a ride, we do weddings, retirements parties, funerals, memorial services, fire services, dedications, celebrations," Thomaier said.

For decades, the nonprofit has relied on donations to keep the rigs running and available to the public, but donations dwindled last year.

"We're not getting the donations coming in to survive, we almost closed the doors last year," Thomaier said.

And now the loss of a longstanding donor means the doors could soon close for good.

A 1927 Ahrens-Fox with a front mounted pump on display was the only pump that could push water to the top of the Smith Tower. The city's last wooden aerial, the Mack 1929, is also on display -- not to mention the hundreds of thousands of photos documenting those 125 years.

"These things drift away then all that's left are photos and memories, when people pass the memories are gone," Thomaier said

Thomaier and his father bought the fire station property in 1973 to build their antique firehouse with their own money. It was a last resort to preserve Seattle fire history, and now Thomaier hopes someone will be their last resort.

It takes about $40,000 a year to maintain and operate the facility. The Last Resort's Board meets in two weeks and hopes to come up with creative solutions to keep their antique fire trucks on the road and available to the public.

The Last Resort Fire Department also helps Seattle Fire run the Fire Department Museum in Pioneer Square.

More information about The Last Resort is available here.