In 1940, it was described as "Fife...at a valley crossroads in the midst of a thickly settled berry growing and truck-gardening district is represented by a string of markets, taverns, shops, and a large, balloon-roofed dance hall along the highway." The 1940 population was 135. Fife was officially incorporated on February 11, 1957.
Due to the increased traffic volume traveling from Puyallup and Tacoma, Fife felt the need to establish itself as autonomous community, not just as an intermediate area between Interstate 5 (I-5) and State Route 167.
Fife may have been named for William J. Fife, a prominent Tacoma lawyer, Yukon prospector, once head of the Washington National Guard, and a lieutenant colonel in the field during the Philippine Insurrection.
Fife is a small city located east of Tacoma and consists primarily of businesses such as car dealerships, warehousing and industrial facilities, motels, an Indian casino, drive through smokeshops, quick-dining restaurants, and other highway-side businesses. Its proximity to the Port of Tacoma, Interstate 5, and Highway 167 has contributed to the large number of freight forwarding companies. Fife's tax base is made up of sales tax, utility tax, and property tax. Fife Heights, located on a hill beyond the incorporated bounds of the city, is a primarily residential area. Milton is immediately to the east and Edgewood is to the southeast.
Fife is located at 47°14′4″N 122°21′35″W (47.234439, -122.359690). It is entirely within the Puyallup Indian Reservation created prior to statehood by the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854, but title is held almost entirely by non-Native Americans.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.83 square miles (15.10 km2), of which, 5.69 square miles (14.74 km2) is land and 0.14 square miles (0.36 km2) is water.
Fife is also a tideflat community, residing in the low, flat area extending from the Port of Tacoma. This means the water table occurs only 10–15 feet below ground in some parts. Consequently, during the day as the tide rises and falls in the Puget Sound, so do parts of land slightly rise and fall.
The southern portions of the city are in the floodplain of the Puyallup River. Much of the city would be damaged or destroyed in the event of a lahar due to an eruption of Mount Rainier.
As of the census of 2010, there were 9,173 people, 3,642 households, and 2,192 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,612.1 inhabitants per square mile (622.4/km2). There were 3,895 housing units at an average density of 684.5 per square mile (264.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 55.2% White, 8.2% African American, 3.0% Native American, 15.5% Asian, 2.7% Pacific Islander, 7.6% other races, and 7.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.4% of the population.
There were 3,642 households of which 35.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.8% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.8% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.12.
The median age in the city was 30.9 years. 25.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 36.9% were from 25 to 44; 20.4% were from 45 to 64; and 6.5% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.4% male and 49.6% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,784 people, 2,111 households, and 1,123 families residing in the city. The population density was 859.7 people per square mile (332.2/km²). There were 2,232 housing units at an average density of 401.1 per square mile (155.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 68.62% White, 6.81% African American, 4.14% Native American, 6.50% Asian, 1.23% Pacific Islander, 6.94% from other races, and 5.75% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.55% of the population.
There were 2,111 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.4% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.8% were non-families. 37.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the city, the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 14.4% from 18 to 24, 34.9% from 25 to 44, 17.3% from 45 to 64, and 7.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 106.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,806, and the median income for a family was $36,250. Males had a median income of $30,963 versus $25,101 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,723. About 12.6% of families and 14.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.8% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.
The Fife Public Schools serve both the cities of Fife and Milton, as well as pockets of Edgewood, and Federal Way. Fife has one high school, Fife High School.Dr. Mark Emmert, former President, University of Washington and currently President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association