Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive


By De Vere Arnold

Is the Automobile Here to Stay?

 "Like a streak he will glide."

    "A large red automobile, guaranteed to cut streaks through the air, has been received by Chief Lips of the Fire Department."

    Such was the heading and first paragraph of an article in a Los Angeles newspaper of October 7, 1908.  And following is a description of the vehicle and what it was expected to accomplish in accelerating fire fighting.

    The car, a Haynes, had been purchased by the city at a cost of $3,300.  It was to be used by the Chief who, with his chauffeur, would be enabled to reach fires in much shorter time than the horse-drawn apparatus, he being present to survey the blaze so the placing of men and equipment could be materially speeded.

     The first call the new equipment attended was a small blaze at First and Broadway.  According to the paper the Chief was at the scene before the alarm had stopped tapping.

    From Chief Lips came this declaration:  "We expect to do great things with this car.  In the first place I can cover about three times as much territory, keep in connection with all the sub-stations, and have my eye on the entire department.  The automobile has been badly needed.  It is a dangerous thing to take a horse hitched to a light wagon through the crowded section of the business district.  The animal knows he is expected to cover ground, and he does it regardless of obstacles.

    "Los Angeles has grown so that the auto-apparatus has become an absolute necessity.  An automobile can make almost five times the speed of the fastest horses in the department, and can be stopped almost instantly to avoid collision, where running horses would precipitate an accident.  The auto is efficient on wet paving, where the horses have to be driven at a trot to prevent slipping."


    Then on March 4, 1910, there appears this heading and story:

"Fire Chief May Have to Abandon Auto."

    Chief Lips of the Fire Department may be compelled to dispense with the use of the handsome automobile provided for his department, return to the 'good old fashioned way' and depend upon hoses to take him to fires.

    Fire Commissioner Maloney at the meeting of the Fire Commission yesterday could see no good reason why the Chief should be privileged to an automobile, necessitating the employment of a chauffeur, whose salary of $100 per month might be saved to the city.

        He did not think the Chief needed an automobile and moved that the services of Lips' chauffeur be dispensed with. There was no second to the motion and the matter was laid over for a week for further consideration.

    Mayor Alexander was inclined to favor the proposition of dispensing with the chauffeur, and asked Chief Lips if he could not learn to drive the automobile himself.  Lips said he probably could do so, but pointed out that a driver was a valuable asset and often assisted at fires.

This article appeared in the October, 1943 issue of The Firemen's Grape Vine.

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