Three times disastrous fires have taken a toll of Yelm’s commercial center.
In March 1908, fire started in the hotel kept by Will Waddell, now of Rainier. The hotel was situated where the bakery now stands. Many will remember that this fire was started when some clothes drying upstairs fell onto an over-heated stove pipe. It burned the hotel, and spread west to Hettick’s store, hotel, and their water tank, which supplied the town. To the east, it leveled the saloon next door and halted only when the wagon shed, built for the convenience of people trading, was torn down to stop it.
Some of these buildings where re-built and a few others were added. In July of 1913, however, a second fire was started. This time it was caused by a small child playing with matches. It began in a bake shop run by the Masco family, which stood on the present site of the Patterson drug store. It rapidly spread eastward to the corner where Field Motors now stands, wiping out business houses and three dwellings.
Again the town was rebuilt, and again a fire struck, this time on May 29, 1924. This time the fire started in the Wilson Hotel and spread to take in almost the entire business part of town. Fire departments came from nearby towns and fought valiantly but most of the buildings were of frame construction and were soon consumed. Although a grievous loss to the merchants at the time, it proved, as fires often do, to be a blessing in disguise. The town was rebuilt, this time according to the plans of recognized architects and city engineers.
Today Yelm stands a model town of many fire-proof buildings, paved streets and neon signs. In the spring of the entire length of the main street is abloom with Hawthorne trees.
In 1927 the town of Yelm boasted one extra good Fire Chief, Ed Brown, and one soda acid fire extinguisher which Ed and Ray Norton cleaned and put in shape. There were then a few hydrants with 2 ½ (two and a half) inch outlets and about 300 feet of hose. A hose cart and the 30 gallon chemical completed the equipment for fire protection
Mayor Curry who was very fire-minded, promoted a better fire fund and a cart and the 30 gallon chemical coupled Studebaker truck, a forestry pump and 1,000 feet of hose were purchased, and a pump mounted on the Studebaker. This equipment gave better fire control, but still too many buildings burned. It was a hard task to find anyone to help take care of the fire equipment after a fire, and often Merle and Neal Curry and Jim and Lee Hendricks were the only help the chief could count on. In 1945 the mayor was again instrumental in getting a used truck. With local help, proceeds from a dance and some special assistance from Dan Carrew, Dwight Shultz and others, the department purchased a 500 g.p.m. pump and a 550 gallon water tank and mounted them on the truck. This better equipment brought out more help and the firefighters were able to get to a fire in better time and accomplish more after their arrival.
Early in 1946 a trailer pumper and ladder, an extra pump with 600 ft. of 2 ½ (two and one half) inch hose were acquired from the War Assets Administration. That year a law was passed allowing a town to be within a district. Thurston County Fire District No, 2 was organized with William Mosman, Arthur Trimble and William Gifford as directors. The Fire Department or Protection District now has a 2-ton Dodge truck with a 500-gallon tank and a 500 g.p.m. pump, Boston fire ladder and 16 trained volunteer firemen.