Friday Jan. 9, 1925, many of the 300 or so Forks residents had gone to watch the Forks basketball team play Clallam at the IOOF Hall. The game got over around 10:30 p.m., many had barely gotten to sleep when the sound of barking dogs and the church bell ringing brought them to their feet and what they saw against the clear night sky was flames, lots of flames.
It was a little before midnight when the good citizens of Forks discovered their town was on fire.
Kirby’s Pool Hall, where Forks Mini Mall is today, was fully engulfed and the Forks Hotel, where Chinook Pharmacy now sits, was just beginning to burn. Locals had begun throwing buckets of water on the walls of the structures, the source of which was the small creek that ran down what is now Division Street.
After some chaos, those on the scene got organized and formed a bucket brigade — at the time Forks had no organized fire department. A woman who lived nearby, Mrs. Hammon, brought blankets and a mattress and these items were used to dam up the creek, making for a better water supply.
It was not long before the fire jumped Division Street and with the bucket brigade now in full force, men began running up the stairs of the Oddfellow’s Hall with buckets of water and throwing them on the roof of the Past Time Pool Hall, which was where the Olympic Pharmacy building was located.
It was at this point in the disaster that someone, the name of this person is long forgotten, decided to dynamite the south side of the pool hall. The thought was in doing so the fire would not spread to the IOOF Hall. Apparently it sounded like a good idea at the time, but soon both buildings were ablaze.
As the fire devoured the town, many began removing furniture and fixtures out of the pool hall and Bill Whitcomb’s Deep Apple Pie lunchroom, which was on the ground floor of the Oddfellow’s Hall.
But, this fire was not done yet.
Next in line was Groffman’s store and a rush was made to remove clothing and shoes to the opposite side of the street. Groffman’s also succumbed but thanks to a pump placed in the dammed up creek the buildings on the west side of the street were saved, but a total of six buildings were gone.
The rebuilding started before the embers had barely cooled. The Oddfellow’s was rebuilt using the same foundation and by July that same year the local paper heralded the rebirth of the “New Forks, modern and up to the minute.”
When the fire alarm sounded in late October 2012, this time the community had a volunteer fire department. Even though two buildings were lost, firemen did an outstanding job saving the surrounding buildings, some just feet away.
This time before the rebuilding could start there were many hoops to jump through before the first nail could be driven and there were questions about even rebuilding.
Then there was the uproar over the design. The people of 1925 wanted new and modern — the people of 2012 wanted something that beckoned of the past.
Well, now it is done, and it is going to be a wonderful addition to downtown. I hope the community will come out and enjoy all the activities that are planned.
Especially meaningful will be the family dance on Saturday night. The event will serve as the first fundraiser for the newly formed Rainforest Council for the Arts. The last event at the old RAC was a family dance. It is time to make new memories.