The ambulance then and now. Above, In 1974, Miss Northshore Lee Hibbert and Lions Club President Ed Heck (far right) joined immediate past Lions president Frank Peep as he handed over the keys to Chief Gary Heuslein (far left); below, the Woodinville Lions Club with the fire commissioners as the ambulance is returned to the club: (left to right) back row, Fire Commissioners Don Eddy, Chair Don Leggett, David Callon, and Fire Chief Steve Smith; front, Deputy Fire Chief Ed Nelson, Woodinville Lions Club President Lowell Power, and John McMahon.
Photo by Jeff Switzer/Woodinville Weekly.
by Jeff Switzer
In 1974, the Woodinville Fire Department was known as the Summit Fire Department, with three full-time firefighters working five days a week, 30 volunteers, and a converted station wagon doubling as their ambulance and the chief's car.
Because of the need for a new ambulance, the Woodinville Lions Club rolled up their collective sleeves and started raising money for one. Starting with $3,500 from three years of bottle recycling, they teamed up with the firefighters and the community to raise a total of $17,000 to purchase a 1974 Dodge maxi-van, accomplishing the feat in 42 days.
"We succeeded in getting that faster than we planned for," John McMahon, a longtime Lions Club member, told the Board of Fire Commissioners last week.
But the 22-year-old ambulance has seen better days, and recently threw its timing chain. With the newer aid cars, use of the ambulance, which has 140,000 "well-used, hard miles," had been phased out over the past four years.
When the Lions donated it to the department, the agreement was for the vehicle to revert to the Lions Club when it no longer served the district's needs.
Raising the funds
Recently appointed Fire Commissioner Frank Peep, the immediate past president of the Lions Club in 1974, was heavily involved in the fund raising. He told the newspapers then, "We wanted to do something worthwhile for the Woodinville community, and sponsoring a drive for a new aid van seemed like the real priority."
The Lions and firefighters canvassed the area seeking donations and giving donors buttons that said "I gave to the aid car." Paper drives, food sales, dinners, an amateur boxing match, $1,000 in candy sales from Leota Junior High, and contributions from the Lake Leota Community Club and Woodinville Chamber of Commerce added to the fund.
The ambulance was dedicated and Miss Northshore Lee Hibbert broke a bottle of champagne over the bumper at a salmon barbecue at Norm's Resort on Cottage Lake on Sept. 14, 1974, where Chief Gary Heuslein accepted the donation on behalf of the fire department and Fire Commissioners Tyler Gottschalk, Gene Mack, and Roger Overman.
Woodinville Lions Club President Lowell Power said the club is exploring the options for what to do with the ambulance now.
"We're going to look into fixing it up, maybe for a rural (fire) department or using bench seats for a community organization to transport elderly or handicapped," Power said.
Deputy Fire Chief Ed Nelson, who joined the district in 1974 and whose uncle was the fire chief in 1973, said the ambulance served the department well.
"Going from operating out of an old Ford station wagon was a step up," he said. "People in the community over the years have benefited greatly from the donation and the work the Lions Club did."
The ambulance responded to about one call each day when the fire department began using it, and the district logged in less than 500 calls each year for fires, accidents, and other emergencies. Today, there are approximately 3,000 calls each year, with 56 uniformed officers and 20 volunteers.