The Sunriver Fire Department was established in 1968 by the Sunriver Resort Corporation and homeowners. The fire department was formed out of the need for structure and natural ground cover protection. The fire department was lead by Herbert “Junior” Kappel as the first Fire Chief. During this year, the fire department purchased its first fire pumper which was a new Western States engine. The first set of volunteers where recruited and trained to the basic firefighter level by members of the City of Bend Fire Department. January 16, 1969 the department received its first emergency call for a forklift on fire. The fire was quickly extinguished.
In 1970 the fire department purchased an additional fire engine from the San Jose California Fire Department. This 1945 American LaFrance was designated as a second out engine. Sometime around this era the fire department combined with the Sunriver Emergency Medical Service into one agency. In 1972 a 1958 Ford station wagon was purchased to be a medical response vehicle. This vehicle was replaced in 1974 with a 1972 Dodge ½ ton van. In 1975 a new Ford pickup was purchased to be used as a Fire Chief vehicle as well as a light brush engine. Three years later a new Chevy Blazer was purchased to be a replacement for the medical response vehicle. In 1979 the department took delivery of a new Seagrave structural fire engine which in turn replaced the 1945 engine.
The next decade showed many changes and a giant leap for the fire department. The department hired its first paid Paramedic to be charged with the responsibility of the emergency medical service in Sunriver. This Paramedic was the first of its kind in Central Oregon. The fire department advanced from a level 7 to a level 5 rating by the Insurance Services Office (I.S.O). In August of 1984 a used 1954 - 65 foot aerial ladder truck was purchased from the Portland Fire Department. The first used ambulance was purchased in 1985 eliminating the need for an ambulance from Bend or LaPine to transport Sunriver patients. In the late 1980's the fire department hired its first three shift personnel to provide a better 24 hour 7 days a week operation. The personnel were assigned one per shift with a schedule of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. During this time the department transferred ownership from the Sunriver Resort to the Sunriver Owners Association. The department took delivery of a new 1989 Ford ambulance to replace the used one purchased in 1985.
In the early 90's three new personnel were hired for shift work. Each shift now consisted of a Captain/Paramedic and a Firemedic. In 1990 the department purchased a new 50 foot telesquirt to replace the 65 foot ladder truck. This also helped the department by moving the 1968 Western States structural engine to now be used as a heavy brush unit. The department now could provide two engines at the scene whether it involved a structure or a wildland fire. 1995 proved to be a banner year for the department. Sunriver Owners approved with a great majority to build a new fire station near the south RV storage area which is still its current location for operations. During this same year, our only ambulance was involved in a head on accident on Highway 97 which totaled the vehicle. Luckily no members of the department were hurt. However, the department was left with no available ambulance to provide service. An ambulance was borrowed from the LaPine Fire Department while the search for a new ambulance took place. This situation prompted the Owners Association Board to approve the purchase of a second ambulance. A used 1982 Ford ambulance was purchased from the City of Bend Fire Department to bring the department up to a two ambulance service. In the first two weeks after placed in service, the second ambulance responded on enough calls to pay for the purchase of the ambulance. The Insurance Services Office (I.S.O.) conducted another audit of the department in 1995. This raised the department from the prior level 5 rating to a level 3 which drastically decreased insurance rates for Sunriver homeowners. In 1996 both the heavy and light brush apparatus were replaced with new ones. Due to a new federal mandated law in 1998 called the “two in two out”, the department hired one additional Firefighter/Paramedic for each shift. This brought each shift to a staffing level of a Captain/Paramedic, Engineer/Paramedic and a Firefighter/Paramedic which is still in effect today.
At the turn of the 21st century, the department purchased a new structural fire engine to replace the 1979 Seagrave. In November of 2002, the department transformed from a private fire department to a public special service district. The newly created district consists of both the fire department and the police department. While both departments are managed by the same service district board of directors, they remain as two separate departments. The department purchased its last piece of apparatus in 2003. The department took delivery of a new 2004 Ford ambulance. In 2003 the Department purchased a new 2004 Ford Ambulance and in 2008 replaced both the light and heavy brush engines. In 2009 the purchase of 75’ aerial ladder truck replacing the department’s 19-year-old 50’ ladder engine. The most recent apparatus replacements took place in 2016 with the update of our first out ambulance as well as our first out engine. The Sunriver fire department continues today to strive to provide the best service possible to the residents and guests of Sunriver.
The Sunriver Resort, Sunriver Owners Association, and surrounding properties were preceded by a military training center named Camp Abbot, which was used by the Army Corp of Engineers during WWII.