To the Honorable, The Mayor, City Council, and Board of Fire Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles, California.
Complying with the City Charter, I have the honor of presenting herewith the Fortieth Annual Report of the Los Angles Fire Department.
The following pages cover the work and accomplishments of this department, the activities of its various subdivisions being segregated as far as possible, and incorporating such statistical information as deemed of interest; the number and kind of improvements made during the year, with certain recommendations as to other improvements which are necessary or desirable to maintain the Department at its present state of efficiency.
During the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1926, the Department received 6606 alarms of fire, including 569 false alarms, being a net number of 6037 actual fires. These figures include alarms received in the Harbor District, Sawtelle, Palms, Venice, in other words all territory included within the corporate limits of the city. The total property loss, both buildings and contents, is $2,513,371. The total area of the city is now 418.85 square miles, with population usually estimated at 1,250,000.
On November 25th, 1925, the City of Venice officially became a part of the City of Los Angeles by annexation, thereby adding to this Department two engine companies and one truck company, and the personnel of the Venice Department was inducted into the service of this Department by the operation of charter provision. A total of twenty-nine men were added; one holding rank of Captain, four Lieutenants, eight Auto-Firemen and sixteen Firemen. By the addition of Venice this City acquired much valuable property and a population estimated at 30,000. The fire hazard in this territory is, however, a matter of deep concern. As is well known, the district is for the most part built up very closely, of frame structures almost exclusively, and the fire protection there has never been by any means adequate. To this local protection we have not been able to add materially, due to conditions beyond the control of this Department and its Commissioners. We are endeavoring at the present time to correct the most obvious hazards. This must necessarily be done somewhat gradually, as if regulations of the City of Los Angeles were immediately imposed, practical confiscation of business or property would in many cases result and serious loss be experienced by those affected.
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The companies of the former City of Venice are now known as Engine Companies 62 and 63, and Truck Company No. 17. The men thus inducted into the service are being trained in Los Angeles methods, principally by means of temporary transfer into companies in our metropolitan district, where they are kept until their performance is satisfactory to our commanding officers. The officers of the former Venice Department are similarly transferred, to bring about a thorough understanding of fire-fighting as taught in this Department, standardization having been regarded as a matter of importance for several years past.
Other annexations materially affecting this Department are officially known as Green Meadows and Watts, the former being completed March 18th and the latter May 29th, 1926. By the annexation of Green Meadows this Department acquired a fire engine house equipped with a modern engine, but the crew of the house, being members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, could not be inducted into the services of this Department and were replaced by our own men. In the case of Watts, a small pumping engine was acquired, and the crew of four men are retained in the service of this Department, Watts having been a municipality as contemplated by Section 122 of the charter relating to the taking over of employees of an annexed city. The Green Meadows company is now known as Engine 64, and the Watts company as Engine 65.
The new fire boat which was built by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Corporation under contract, as a result of a bond issue of $400,000 voted for that purpose on May 6th, 1924, was completed and officially placed in service immediately after October 20th, the date of the launching. Although not entirely completed at that time, it was placed in the fire service pending completion and official acceptance due to the dire need of additional fire protection at the Harbor. I am pleased to state that the performance of the boat has been all that was anticipated, and upon the occasion of several very serious fires since its acquirement, it has abundantly proved its value to the Harbor. The boat house at Berth 227, including quarters for the crew, is completed and occupied. A paved street reaches the boat house from the eastern side of the channel. With the fire boat run two tender companies by land, one being located at the fire boat quarters and the other at Engine 53, Mesa and Olivera Streets. The purpose of these latter companies is to carry hose and equipment to fires, and they are usually a very necessary adjunct to the fire boat.
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The new fire alarm system is functioning very satisfactorily and the installation of alarm boxes has progressed steadily throughout the year. At the close of June 30th, approximately 800 boxes were in service under the new system. Much favorable publicity has been received concerning this system and its headquarters building in Westlake Park, this site having been selected as the most central and also on account of its peculiar isolation from exposure, and its building and occupancy for this purpose having been made possible through the courtesy of the Board of Park Commissioners. Some criticism was at first excited among the uninformed when publicity was first given to this intention. Now that the building is erected, there is no criticism whatever, as it is unobtrusive, the architecture blends correctly with surroundings, and there is nothing about the appearance of the building to indicate its purpose. As the installation of new boxes progresses, and the public becomes acquainted with their location, more alarms are received through the system and less by telephone.
The Department Fire College has been continued without interruption throughout the year. With the close of the calendar year 1925 all officers of the Department had completed their prescribed course of instruction, and the year 1926 is being devoted to the instruction of engineers and auto firemen on the practice of fire fighting, with particular reference to their specialized duties. I am very much pleased with the results of the instruction and the College is proving eminently worth its cost. This work occupies the entire time of an Assistant Chief, two Captains, and one Stenographer. All members receiving instruction are required to attend while off duty and courses are so arranged. No member is excused from attendance. The entire personnel has entered into this work with the most excellent spirit, which is a source of much gratification to me and to other chief officers.
At this time I would again call attention, with special emphasis, to the early necessity of providing additional fire stations, equipment and men to give fire protection in every reasonably adequate manner to the new districts of the city which are rapidly building up, and to the newly annexed territory which is in some cases very remote from the nearest municipal fire station. There seems to be no hope that such improvements can ever be made from the annual revenues of the city, for several reasons: First, that the acute demands of other departments render an unusual appropriation in the Fire Department budget impossible of consideration; and second, in the event that the possibility should present itself to finance one or two houses in this manner, it would be impossible to decide where to place such houses, for it is not one or two but rather many districts where fire protection is inadequate. A bond issue such as was authorized in 1922 appears to be the only proper solution, and I would recommend that as soon as the circumstances permit, such a proposal be submitted to the voters. I would conservatively estimate that three million dollars would be a minimum required.
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There were eliminated from the Fire Department budget for the coming fiscal year many items of expenditure which were deemed by me to be of positive necessity, among others being provision for new fire hose and all new hydrant installations, and unfortunately the Department can not be strengthened in the matter of equipment or men. All chief officers are pledged to a program of the strictest economy, in an endeavor to compensate in some degree by increased personal efficiency. It was a matter of the keenest regret to me that more adequate facilities, both apparatus and men, can not be furnished to Venice and other districts where such are so badly needed. I also regret that we will be unable to continue the usual program of hydrant installation, for I know that that these installations must eventually come, and due to the progress of street improvement may be done far more economically now than at a later time.
Finally, I wish to thank His Honor The Mayor for his continued support and co-operation, for I feel that in his capacity as Chief Executive Officer of the City, he has looked well to the interests of the Fire Department. I thank the members of the Honorable Board of Fire Commissioners for their interest in the welfare of the Department, and for their counsel and definite acts which assured the chief officers of this Department of the support so necessary to the maintenance of discipline and efficiency. I thank the Honorable City Council for its assistance and support in vital matters, and the various City Departments for their cordial co-operation with our work. And lastly, although first in importance for departmental welfare, I extend a particular and personal expression of appreciation to the members of the Los Angeles Fire Department. I do not hesitate for one moment in saying that in efficiency, morale and in devotion to ideals, there is no finer body of men in any fire service.
R. J. SCOTT,
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