September 1861: The start of R.C.F.D.
On September 11, 1861, the interested citizens of the community
called a meeting, at the courthouse. Their aim was to organize
a Fire Company. John W. Ackerson was appointed Chairman and John
Ames was appointed Secretary.
A second meeting was called on September 18, 1861, at which time
the Constitution and By-Laws were prepared.
At the third meeting on September 23, 1861, the Constitution
and By-Laws were adopted and the Company became known as “Redwood
City Fire Company No. 1.” Twenty-three members were enrolled
with an initiation fee of $1.00 and monthly dues of 25 cents.
Meetings were to be held monthly. The company was to consist of
not less than twenty members or more than sixty-five members.
The first Officers elected were:
Foreman (Chief) W. C. Grey
First Assistant Foreman W. H. Shreve
Second Assistant Foreman C. A. Perkins
Secretary John Ames
Treasurer John W. Ackerson
January 1862 First Annual Meeting
These men served until the First Annual Meeting, which was held
on January 6, 1862. On January 5, 1862, the following men were
Foreman (Chief) John W. Ackerson
First Assistant Foreman W. H. Shreve
Second Assistant Foreman C. A. Perkins
Secretary John Ames
Treasurer George Wentworth
March 1862 Piano Style Fire Engine Ordered
On March 3, 1862, a Fire Company Committee was empowered to
order a Piano Style Fire Engine (hand pumper, drawn by manpower)
from Cowing and Company of Seneca Falls, New York. W. T. Coleman
and Company of San Francisco was handling the transaction.
Monthly dues, contributions and the proceeds paid for this Engine
from the first Annual Ball, which was held on May 15, 1862, and
September 1862 Two-wheel hose cart/hose purchased
On September 1, 1862, the Fire Company purchased its first two-wheel
hose cart for $100 and 200 feet of hose for $252.
The Fire Engine ordered in March, 1862, arrived in San Francisco
on September 13, 1862, and was delivered in Redwood City on September
22, 1862. The cost of this Engine was $616.70.
The citizens took extreme pride in this new Engine, which was
made of mahogany and trimmed in shining brass. Miss Emmie Schofield
on behalf of the ladies of the community presented the Fire Company
with its first banner. It was made of satin and trimmed in gold.
November 1862 First Fire House built on Main Street
The first Fire House was built on Main Street and completed in
November, 1862. A Fire Bell was purchased for the Fire House on
January 6, 1864.
April 1864 Fire destroyed the American Hotel
On April 7, 1864, a fire occurred destroying the American Hotel.
This was the first major fire since the Fire Company was organized.
Pumping water from a nearby cistern saved the Eureka Hotel next
door. No water was available from the creek and the tide was out.
April 1865 Resolution passed to have funeral procession
for President Lincoln
Two days after the President’s death, a resolution passed
on April 17, 1865, that a funeral procession be held the following
Wednesday on behalf of the late President Lincoln. All members
were called by the tolling of the Fire Bell.
April 1877 First Water Company completed
In April, 1877, the first Water Company was completed on Middlefield
Road, known then as Phelps Street.
1889 Town trustees took over the Fire Company
As the town grew (some 2,000 population) fires became more frequent.
In 1889 the Fire Company asked the town trustees to take over
the maintenance of the Fire Company as they were unable to maintain
such an organization. The town trustees agreed to take over and
maintain the organization. They immediately ordered a hook and
ladder and a hose cart. This was the beginning of the Redwood
City Fire Department as known today.
Three companies were formed in different parts of the town, each
with a hose cart. They were known as No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3.
George Lovie was the first Chief of this group elected in 1889.
Bells were purchased for each company for calling their members,
each bell having a different tone.
Early 1900’s Progress in the Fire Department Equipment
At the turn of the century, the first hand-drawn chemical engine
In 1912 the first electric fire alarm system was installed. This
included thirty street fire alarm boxes, a steam whistle at the
S. H. Frank Tannery and a two-circuit panel board.
In 1915, Mark E. Ryan was elected Fire Chief of the Department
and a new era began. A bond election was held and the first motorized
Fire Engine was ordered and delivered in that year. The Schnerr
Company built it in San Francisco. It was a chemical engine with
a body for carrying hose.
Also in the early 1920’s the Fire Department used to alert
police officers out on patrol to call their office by flashing
the street lights.
1920 Fire House was built on Middlefield Road
Chief Ryan combined all the Fire Companies into one organization
and in 1920 the firehouse on Middlefield Road was built. The first
paid men of the Department were hired. They were Bert Werder,
who was to retire as County Fire Warden and Sylvester Douglas
who was to retire as a Captain in the Police Department. In 1924
Lawrence Wood became a paid fireman retiring in 1948.
1921, 1926: Seagraves joined the fleet
In 1921 the first motorized pumping engine with a capacity of
pumping 750 gallons per minute was purchased from the Seagrave
Company of Columbus, Ohio. In 1926 the second Seagrave engine
was purchased with a pumping capacity of 1000 gallons per minute.
1928 Chief Ryan honored and a second fire house was built.
In 1928, Chief Ryan was elected to the Presidency of the Pacific
Coast Fire Chiefs Association, which was quite an honor for a
Chief of a small community to accomplish. This convention was
held in San Francisco.
A new station at Jefferson and Myrtle (Station #2, now known
as Station 10) was built in 1928. The contractors were Duncan
1930 Hook and Ladder wagon purchased
In 1930 the American La France Company delivered a new ladder
truck replacing the hook and ladder wagon which was purchased
when the hook and ladder company was organized.
1931 Chief Ryan started to receive pay
In 1931 Chief Ryan became the first paid Fire Chief of the Fire
Department. Up to this time his services were volunteered with
no benefit of pay.
1932 Electrical division formed in the Fire Department
In 1932 Chief Ryan formed an electrical division in the department.
Its members were firemen. This division maintained and extended
the streetlights and the alarm system, as the City continued to
grow. The fire alarm system grew from two to eleven circuits.
The first members of this division were Henry Tarret, Richard
Drivon (link to In Memory section) and Willis Leslie. The electrical
division was able to help the volunteer firemen during the depression
years by hiring them for part-time work.
The Fire Department also helped the needy citizens of the community
during the depression years. They would take flour that was brought
in from San Francisco and take it to the local bakeries. After
the bread was made, the firemen would pick it up and take it to
the local schools and the fire stations where it would be distributed
to the citizens, who were furnished with I.D. cards.
1933 First drill tower outside of San Francisco
In 1933 the first drill tower built outside of San Francisco
was added to the rear of Station #1 (Middlefield Rd. Station).
During the construction of the Library and the enlarging of City
Hall, City Hall personnel were housed in the top floor of Station
#1. After City Hall moved back to their building, the top floor
of Station #1 was converted into a dormitory for the firemen.
1936 First radio, firefighters started to receive pay
Around 1936 Redwood City received its first radio. It was a
one-way radio. The telephone company would call KAAR Engineering
in Palo Alto who would broadcast the information over the air.
The Police Department would receive their calls the same way.
Walter Harrington, Chief Radio Engineer for KAAR and later to
become San Mateo County Communication Officer, was the consultant
for all future radio installations for the City.
In 1936 the volunteer firemen began to receive pay for responding
to fires. At this time the Department had six full time firemen.
Late 1930 bells installed in personal homes
In the late 1930’s bells were installed in the homes of
firemen and volunteers to augment the steam whistle at Franks
Tannery. A numbered code would be sounded identifying the location
of a fire, and the men would respond to that location.
A two-way radio system was purchased around this time allowing,
for the first time, conversation between the fire station and
the fire ground.
During World War II five volunteer companies were formed and
trained. They were assigned to different schools in the community
to report to in the event of an alert. A gas-powered siren was
installed on the top of the drill tower to alert these companies.
Later electric sirens were installed near the schools.
1946 Chief Ryan retired
In July, 1946, Chief Ryan retired as Chief after more than thirty
years of faithful service to his community. He passed away in
December 1946, only six months after his retirement.
Deputy Chief J. L. Lodi was appointed Chief of the Department.
Willis Leslie was appointed Deputy Chief and Richard Drivon was
appointed Fire Marshal.
1947 Personnel changed and another Seagrave
In 1947 John Keller and Bill Hart were appointed the Department’s
In 1947 the Department took delivery of two new 1000 gallon per
minute Seagrave Engines. Another was added in 1949 as the town
continued to grow.
A $1 million bond initiative was passed. The bulk of this money
was used to upgrade the water system of the City and to add a
third station as well as enlarge Station #1.
1952 Another station opened & Fire Alarm supervisor
Station #3 (known as Station 11 today) was built at 2nd and
Bay Rd. and was dedicated in the memory of Chief Ryan in September,
In 1952 Ray Balzarini was appointed Fire Alarm Supervisor. He
maintained the fire alarm system and supervised the fire alarm
dispatch office, which grew to four dispatchers. He retired in
1953 Station 1 Enlarged, Training Chief, Aerial ladder
Station #1 was enlarged and a new drill tower and drafting pit
were added in 1953.
In 1953 Captain William Hart was appointed as the Department’s
first Training Officer.
In 1953 the Department took delivery of its first aerial ladder
truck, a 75 foot Maxim.
1954 Fire Marshal Drivon died
In 1954 while testifying at an arson trial, Fire Marshal Drivon
suffered a fatal heart attack (link to In Memory section).
In 1954 Captain George Asvos was appointed Fire Marshal.
1957 1st Battalion Chief appointed
In 1957 Captain Clifford Ashby was appointed the Department’s
first Battalion Chief.
1958 First woman hired, Fireboat acquired
In 1958 the Department’s first woman, Mrs. Lillian Earl,
was hired as the Chief’s secretary.
In 1958 the Department purchased a fireboat. It was a military
surplus from the Sea Bee Base in Port Hueneme. It was
paid for by the Port and was maintained and manned by the Fire
Department. Jim Rice, Port Maintenance Supervisor, firemen Charles
Guinasso, Gene Paridy and Jim Serra traveled to Port Hueneme to
pick up the boat, sailing it along the coast to Redwood City.
It protected the Port and boaters until it was sold to a developer
in the Sonora area in 1978. It’s most memorable moment came
in 1969 when it sailed up Redwood Creek to help fight the Franks
1960 Second Battalion Chief appointed
In 1960 Captain Hart was appointed the Department’s second
Battalion Chief. Captain John Keller succeeded him as Training
1961 RCFD celebrated 100 years
In 1961 the Redwood City Fire Department celebrated its centennial.
It was a week long celebration kicked off by a proclamation by
the Mayor and the Council, a banquet at headquarters for City
dignitaries, former volunteers and World War II auxiliary firemen,
and a grand parade. A museum was established in a vacant store
on Broadway donated by former Mayor Henry Beeger. Wives and friends
operated it for many months. The artifacts are now dispersed between
the City Library, County Museum, and Fire Station #2.
1962 First platform truck delivered
In 1962 the Department took delivery of its first platform truck
1966 Third Battalion Chief appointed
In 1966 Captain Keller was appointed the Department’s third
Battalion Chief and Captain Biagi succeeded him as Training Officer.
In 1967 Deputy Chief Willis Leslie retired from the Fire
Department. Battalion Chief Keller succeeded him as Deputy Chief.
Captain Alfred Hund succeeded Chief Keller as Battalion Chief.
September 1969 Fourth Station established
On September 22, 1969, a fourth station (Station #4, now known
as Station #12) was dedicated. It was built at Jefferson and Highland.
1970 Chief Lodi retired
In April 5, 1970 Chief Lodi retired as Chief of the Fire Department
after serving as Chief for 24 years.
Deputy Chief Keller succeeded Chief Lodi as Chief of the Department.
Captain Biagi succeeded Chief Keller as Deputy Chief. Captain
Andreozzi became the Department’s new Training Officer.
Early 1970’s More progress at RCFD
In March, 1971, Captain Miller became the Department’s
Many changes were taking place in the fire service at this time.
Chief Keller was involved in many of the following:
- The first radio alarm boxes were installed.
- The Office of Emergency Services County Communication system
was installed at Redwood City’s Dispatch Office.
- Automatic aid with the adjoining departments was accomplished.
- San Mateo County emergency response plan was drafted.
- Five 1500 gallon per minute engines purchased.
- Company inspection program starts (all apartments and businesses
are inspected once a year by fire personnel).
- Blue dot program starts (blue reflectors are placed at intersection
having fire hydrants at that location).
In 1978 Training Officer Captain Peter O’Brien was named
Tri-City Training Coordinator. He was responsible for the training
of the Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmont Fire Departments.
1978 Department’s secretary retired
In November, 1978, Lillian Earl, the department’s secretary
retired after 20 years of service.
1979 Department’s second secretary hired, Chief Keller
In February, 1979, the department’s second secretary, Holliday
(Holly) Nazar was hired.
In August, 1979, Chief Keller retired as Chief of the Department.
He had served the department as Chief for nine years. Training
Coordinator Peter J. O’Brien succeeded him as Chief of the
Department. The Training Coordinator’s position was taken
over by a member of the San Carlos Fire Department.
Chief O’Brien, upon taking over the operations of the department,
set about reorganizing the staff structure of the department.
He eliminated the positions of Deputy Chief and, upon Fire Marshal
Asvos’ retirement in 1979, the position of Fire Marshal.
He replaced them with two Battalion Chief positions. One was assigned
the Fire Marshal’s responsibility, and the other with the
Deputy Chief’s responsibilities.
1980 Fire Prevention Battalion Chief appointed
In 1980 Captain Harold Yoakum was appointed Fire Prevention
Battalion Chief, and Captain Bill Davidson was appointed Administrative
Battalion Chief. 1980 saw the Fire Prevention Bureau change to
civilian inspectors under the direction of Battalion Chief Yoakum.
The Fire Dispatch was transferred to a newly organized communications
department along with Police Department Dispatch.
The dismantling of the fire alarm system is started. It was completed
in January, 1984.
A Truck Company (a rescue truck and snorkel) is formed, creating
three new Captain’s positions.
In 1981 Captain Mace was appointed Training Coordinator.
Captain Alfred Becketti succeeded him in this position in May,
1982. Captain Becketti became a Battalion Chief in September,
1981 Station 2 torn down and rebuilt
In 1981 Station #2 (currently Station #10) was torn down and
a new one was built in the same location. It was dedicated in
1984 Station 1 moved to temporary quarters
Personnel and equipment moved out of Station 1 (currently Redwood
City’s Main Library) to trailers on Franklin Street. This
was to last for 1 year. Construction of the new station took three
1987 Headquarters Station opened on Marshall
Station 1 crew moved into their new fire house on Marshall Street
(currently Station 9). The first Tiller Ladder Truck is acquired.
The citizens of Redwood City, by overwhelming majority, voted
for binding arbitration as a bargaining tool for the fire fighters.
Prior to 1990 Fire Station numbers changed
In preparation for a future County-wide numbering system, all
Redwood City’s fire stations numbering was adjusted to the
ONE numbering system within the entire county:
Station 1 became Station 9
Station 2 became Station 10
Station 3 became Station 11
Station 4 became Station 12
When the Redwood Shores station was built, it became Station 20
to fit into the County Dispatch’s numbering scheme.
1992 Fire Net Six established
San Mateo County switched from individual city/district-centered
dispatch centers for Fire to ONE dispatch center serving six jurisdictions
(Redwood City Fire Department, South County Fire Authority, Menlo
Fire Protection District, Woodside Fire Protection District, California
Department of Forestry and Half Moon Bay Fire). The advantage
of this system is the ease in dispatching multiple companies from
neighboring jurisdictions for large incidents (link to Communications
Spring 1997 Paramedics brought on board
Redwood City hired its first paramedics (link to Operations
Page/Paramedics in Redwood City) to better serve the City of Redwood
City. Fire Fighters were sent to Paramedic school by the Department.
1998 Station 20 in Redwood Shores opened
Station 20 opened to better serve the Redwood Shores area.
1999 Fire Net Six Expanded
Fire Net Six expanded to Fire Net 99 and included the original
Fire Net Six agencies as well as all other San Mateo County fire
agencies (link to Communications page).
February 2000 Electronic Arts donated $20,000
The money donated by Electronic Arts was used to buy a top-of-the-line
Thermal Imagining Camera. This camera has the ability to see through
smoke by using the variations of heat to draw pictures. The use
of this technology greatly enhances fire fighters ability to rescue
persons trapped in smoke and reduce the spread of fire and consequent
November 2000 Oracle donated $21,000
The money was used to buy a Thermal Imagining Camera. Redwood
City is one more camera closer to their goal of having a camera
on every Engine and the Truck.
September 2002 1st Memorial Service held
Stemming from childhood memories of attending Memorial Services
with his dad, and also from losing a close friend/fellow fire
fighter, Fire Fighter Greg Da Cunha organizes the first non-denominational
memorial service for fallen public safety members in South San
Mateo County (link to Hot Topics page/San Mateo County Public
Safety Memorial Service). By popular demand, the event was later
expanded to cover public safety agencies in the northern part
of San Mateo County, in addition to the southern agencies.
April 2003 Department purchased 3rd Camera
The Department purchased a Thermal Imagining Camera to place
on another one of their Engines.
April 2003 Chamber of Commerce’s Local Businesses
Alpio Barbara, owner of Redwood General Tire, spearheaded the
Chamber of Commerce’s local businesses in raising money
to buy the 4th Thermal Imagining Camera for the Department. R.C.F.D.
is now only 2 cameras away from their goal of a camera on each
of their responding apparatus.