A Sad Goodbye To An Old Friend

By Bill Dahlquist, 112-C, LAFD Historical Society
    For over sixty years it stood near the point at Berth 227 on Terminal Island.  Soaring with quiet dignity above the surrounding landscape, it guarded the very heart of the world's largest man-made harbor.  The last few years it was designated Fire Station 112, but for generations of us it was always Boat 2

     Today, a cool breeze blows across the barren point, unobstructed by the once familiar landmark.  Boat 2, that Rock of Gibraltar, that Great Pyramid of Egypt, that seemingly eternal institution, has been relegated to the twilight world of nostalgic memory.  The Station has been torn down.

    Back in 1925, while Fireboat 2 was under construction, work was begun on a magnificent boat house and fire station to accommodate the new seagoing superpumper.  Located near the turning basin on the Main Channel, it occupied a strategic position near the geographic center of the harbor.  Work continued through the spring of 1926 and by July the building was ready for occupancy.

    A huge, cavernous barn completely covered the boat, a fact which contributed significantly to the longevity of Fire boat 2.  At the channel end of the barn, an ornate archway curved over the open entrance.  At the land end to the east, massive curved glass windows carried the archway theme completely through the boat house allowing considerable light to penetrate the structure.  Sunlight also streamed into the barn through huge windows up high along the south wall, a act which would later lead to their being covered over.

    The boat was encircled on three sides by a walkway and railing.  The curved portion at the boat's stern was always referred to as the "bull ring".  Over the years, many thousands of school children and others visitors learned about the wonders of fire boating from that walkway.

    There was a three bay apparatus floor on the landward end of the boat house with arched glass windows over the three sets of double swinging doors.  Several companies were quartered there at various times over the years including: Foamite 2, Boat Tender 2, Foam Dry 112, Engine 81 and a fully manned relief pumper (during the war), and Engine 40 on five or six different occasions.

    The office and living quarters were on the south side of the boat house with the original entrance to the office located at street level by the hose tower door.  There was a stairway up through what later became an enlarged bedroom for the captain.  The immense dormitory was built out over the water with large ventilation skylights overhead.  In wintertime the stab of that icy chamber would make a Spartan sob.  Outside the dormitory a large bell was located as an aid to navigation for the Main Channel.  On foggy nights the 4' diameter bell was struck 2 blows every 30 seconds by a 20 lb. electric sledge, thereby guaranteeing an alert crew all night long.

    The exposed studs in the boat house wall were full 2x8's about thirty-five feet long in one piece from plate to plate.  As engineer John Rasmussen observed, "Each one was a tree."  The entire building was wrapped in 1x8 horizontal ship-lap wooden siding.  The crowning glory of the station was the hose tower which was topped with an elegant cupola allowing excellent visibility all over the harbor.  It stood abut 75 feet high and had a flagpole on top.

    As the years worn on, many changes came to the old boat station.  In 1928, old Fireboat 3 was quartered on the north side.  It would later be moved to the south side where eventually a metal building was placed over it.  Years later, in 1967, the boat would be replaced by new Fireboat 3.

    May 1, 1933, the Marine Branch of the LAFD Fire College was established at Boat 2 with Captain's Carl R. Baurer and Herbert E. Dikeman as instructors.  The course covered all phases of fireboat care and maintenance and the operation of all equipment carried by boats and boat tenders.  In the late 30's, a large handball court was built on the north side adjacent to an area known as "the north forty."  It is believed that at sometime during this period the large workshop was built on the south side of the locker room.

    During World War II, a small guard shack was built on the outer end of the walkway on the north side of the slip..  From this location, the floor watch could spot fires and saboteurs up and down the Main Channel.  By the late 40's, the cupola was removed from the hose tower due to rain leakage. Changes were made to the office, dormitory and locker room.  Finally in the 50's the entire building was wrapped in asbestos shingles covering over all the windows in the boat house and the arched windows over the apparatus doors.  Two sets of these doors were changed to overhead types.



    In the late 60's several LAFD projects were developed and instituted from the station. Most notable were the Scuba firefighting program and the fiberglass protective covers for open cab apparatus known as "Watts Tops" and used during the 1965 riots. They were build by the firefighters at Boat 2.

    One by one, other companies and apparatus were removed until finally only Fireboat 2 and unmanned Foam 112 remained at the station.  It also became apparent that expanding container terminals were pressing in on both sides of the station .  It was standing in the way of progress. The plan was to fill in slip 228, shave off the point north of quarters and have a continuous wharf from Berth 216 to Berth 239.

   In the early 80's, badly deteriorated pilings were replaced under the house as a temporary measure until agreements were worked out between the Fire and Harbor Department's concerning relocation.  Finally it was decided to move the company to a temporary facility in San Pedro until a permanent station could be built.  With the completion of the modular interim station just north of the old ferry building at Berth 85, the company began moving sixty years of accumulated support hardware for Fireboat 2.  On July 3, 1986, all emergency operations were transferred to the new station and the boat was moored outside, there to remain for approximately 30 months while a new station is being built next door at Berth 86.  Almost immediately, workmen began removing the asbestos shingles from the old house.  On July 22, the great back hoes of the Power Breaking Corporation began munching the apparatus floor; then the living quarters and hose tower.  Suddenly work stopped as a small amount of asbestos was discovered and the old boat house stood there naked in the rubble as if protesting the outrage of it all.

   About a week later, work began again.  I looked up the channel one morning and saw there was but a twenty foot section of the north wall still standing.  We castoff and silently slipped up to Berth 227 arriving just after the last section came crashing down.  It was 1000 hours on July 29, 1986.  We stood off about two hundred feet, faced the desolation and sounded a last salute, three long, mournful blasts of the Scott's old horn.  The workmen straightened up like they had been speared with a lance (as anyone who stood before that mighty trumpet can relate to) then proceed unaware of the gathering lump in our throats as we pivoted away from the scene for the last time.

   In its final years, the old building had little resembled its 1926 elegance: but the hundreds of firefighters who have worked there, as well as many other friends and visitors. will always remember its functional simplicity.  A real home away from home.  Perhaps Larry Schneider said it best, "It was just a building, just utilitarian; but there was something about the place that everybody loved."

This article appeared in the September, 1986 issue of THE FIREMEN'S GRAPEVINE.

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