Under gray skies and steady rain, Woodinville Fire & Rescue chaplain Christy Dunn read a prayer and bagpipes whined as the flag was lowered, removed and folded.
In front of dozens of firefighters — many of whom worked there for years — Fire Station 34 was officially laid to rest on Wednesday at about 8 a.m., the result of the Kingsgate area’s annexation to Kirkland effective eight hours earlier. The building had been in operation since 1972. Six firefighters who worked at the station have recently been transferred to the Kirkland Fire Department.
Several members of WFR swallowed hard during the brief ceremony.
"I think it’s very emotional for a lot of the firefighters," 18-year veteran Ted Klinkenberg said. "A lot of these guys have been at this station for over a decade serving the community."
"I see a lot of people here pretty emotional about the thing," he said. Yet Nicholas took a more pragmatic approach than most.
"I’m coming to the end of my career and I’ve seen a lot of change in the community I was born and raised in. Things change; governments change and the way they manage things change. If I think about it on a personal level — the fact that it’s the community I’ve been working with — I can become emotional, too. But to me it’s just a piece of life. Things change in life."
Scott Reifers is currently a lieutenant at Station 33, but worked at 34 for his first 15 years of service, and swallowed harder than most.
"Wow ... Al (Nicholas) and I used to run around the field across the street — when there was a field. That was 30 years ago." And his voice began to tremble.
"I think about all the people we took care of ...," and his emotions got the best of him and he paused. "There are just a lot of great memories."
Firefighter Matt Plush has spent his entire career at Station 34 and knows exactly how long it’s been: 12 years and 350 days, he said.
"It’s difficult to see it close. We’re gonna miss this place. They’re gonna miss us up here and we’re gonna miss the community."
What becomes of the structure, owned by WFR, remains to be seen, Communications Services Officer David Weed said. "That’s a decision the fire commissioners will make." He said the station’s fire engine and two aid cars would be dispensed among the three remaining Woodinville fire stations.
With more than a little irony, an emergency call came into the station at 7:59, a minute before the ceremony began.
It was the last time the bell would ever ring at Station 34, and was decided that an aid car from Station 31, parked out front, would respond.
"It was emotional for me to see the lieutenant finally place the vehicles out of service for the last time, but I guess it’s time to move on," Public Educator and Public Information Officer Dave Leggett said. "But that call at 7:59 was golden. Something about it was magical. Very symbolic."
WFR Fire Chief David Daniels did not attend the ceremony.