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FROM PORTLAND TO LA GRANDE
By T.L. Petersen
Observer Staff Writer
Don Keeling with the La Grande Volunteer Fire Department knows all about details.
He watches for old documents concerning the early days of volunteer firefighters. He collects small pieces of equipment, from badges to helmets to fire-engine bells and ladders for the future regional firefighting museum in La Grande. He finds places where hard-used old fire trucks can be reconditioned.
And he finds ways to get things he wants.
A few years ago, Keeling was looking at old pictures and noticed something.
The street light outside the original fire station building in La Grande looked much like the lights that Portland was using in Old Town and other history-laden locations.
Keeling thought one of those lights would look good outside La Grandes Regional Fire Museum and Learning Center.
So, in November 2000, he wrote the City of Portland a letter, asking if one of the antique lamps could be donated to the fire museum.
Keelings timing was right. In February 2001, the section manager of Portlands Signals, Street Lighting and ITS Division wrote back that the city was phasing out the rod-style lights, and he liked the way the museum would use the light.
So Portlands Office of Transportation donated everything needed to install the light except the bolts used in the fixtures base. Keeling would have to arrange transportation for the 900-pound light fixture.
A year later, the light has been cleaned up and repainted and lit up outside the door of the future fire museum on Elm Street.
Several members of the La Grande FFA chapter helped spruce up the lamp and organize the disassembled fixture, and provided some of the funding to get the light installed and operating.
The La Grande-Union County Visitors and Conventions Bureau also donated to the project, along with the City of La Grande, the volunteer fire department and
Joe Davis, who did the electrical wiring.
Keeling added the final touches last weekend, covering the light sensor so that, at least for a while, La Grande will be lit all day and night by a bit of history.
The fire museum will be located in La Grandes current fire station. A new station is being constructed at Cove Avenue and North Pine Street.