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A-Z History of Sumner, Washington - Floods and Fires

Provided in part by Daffodil Valley Times and the City of Sumner.

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Fires and Floods

Sumner has seen its share of fire and flood. A simple chronology of the incidents of fire and citizens’ efforts to fight fire, drawn from the Sumner Historical Society’s dateline of events, may say it best:

  • 1892 Purchase of fire engine discussed and tabled
  • 1893 Entire business district burns to ground, including Sumner’s only fire-proof building-the Ryan block. Purchase of fire engine discussed and tabled
  • 1899 Fireplug placed at Narrow and Main. Fire engine still under advisement
  • 1907 George Beardsley appointed Chief of Volunteer Fire Department. Two hose carts purchased in lieu of fire engine. Discussion on the latter item-re-tabled
  • 1918 January: Brockway fire truck arrives! Discussed since 1892 and ordered in June of 1917. Cost: $3,075.
  • 1924 April: Sumner’s four-story grade school building burns beyond repair. Floors soaked with oil to keep dust down adds to the inferno

Tress was fifteen and Madge seventeen at the time of the grade school fire. The oily rags that contributed to the conflagration were in the janitor’s quarters. Kids escaped by sliding down canvas chutes anchored in the schoolhouse windows. Tress remembers they were told to help salvage items from the burning structure. A boy named Harry started throwing wooden desks from the third floor to the ground, where they splintered into smithereens. She wonders why he didn’t try to save things that might have survived the fall like schoolbooks. Madge remembers that one of the downtown fires took the steepled Shipley Building and the horses and mules housed in the livery stables.

Acres of farmland were lost to the 1906 flood that caused the Stuck River to change its course. Cultural Resources writes:
…the White River had flowed northward to join the Green River at Auburn in King County. In 1906, debris and sediment generated by high flow on the White River dammed its channel and caused the river to flow south into the Stuck and then into the Puyallup. The construction of a diversion dam at Auburn shortly afterward fixed the a permanent tributary to the Puyallup. The Stuck River then became know as the White River.

The water table is very close to the surface of the valley, creating special construction considerations. The first Daffodil Valley Elementary School sank into the water table and was torn down in 1992. Students and teachers still remember wading through wet halls to get to classrooms. When student population growth mandated a new elementary school, Sumner School District chose to rebuild on the safe parts of the old site and keep the old name.

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Information on these pages is provided in part by Daffodil Valley Times Staff and The City of Sumner, Wa.

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