Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

Former Chief Eley Passes

    Archibald J. Eley, former Chief Engineer of the Los Angeles Fire Department, died June 3 at Thousand Oaks, Ventura County.  Funeral services were held June 7 at the Todd & Leslie Mortuary in Santa Monica, with internment in Woodlawn Cemetery.  A uniformed detail of the fire department, under command of Assistant Chief Forrest W. Moore, was in charge of funeral arrangements.

    Chief Eley on May 1, 1892 entered service with the department as a call man.  Six months later, October 20, 1892, he received appointment as driver. In May of 1895 he became captain, and on May 24, 1910, after eighteen years of service in the department, he was appointed as chief engineer.

    For nine years he remained at this post.  Nine years which witnessed many of the major additions and improvements in the department, being a period that gave demonstration of the great future of the city.

    Coming into control of the department at a time when politics had its effect in the personnel and conduct of the department Chief Eley, strict disciplinarian, immediately made known his intention of developing the department to the exclusion of politics and favoritism.  He demanded physical fitness of the individual fireman and constant fire drills were the order of the day.  Typical of his program is the statement credited to him:  "It is a ticklish job when a man has to go up a high building with a scaling ladder or struggle with a twisting, writhing hose at the top of a tall ladder, and if that man has not had a lot of drilling it is no place for him."

    At the time of Chief Eley's appointment there were but few pieces of motorized equipment in the city.  An avowed exponent of power driven apparatus, he was instrumental in the constant replacements of horses by automobiles.  A student of fire fighting methods he stressed fire prevention, his activities in this having much to do with the installation of sprinkling systems which have made a large contribution to the relatively small fire losses in this city and saved much money for owners of property in reduced insurance rates.

    On June 30, 1919, Chief Eley retired after twenty-seven years an active member of the department.  After a vacation period he accepted the appointment as chief of the fire department of Universal Studios, which place he held for twenty years.  It is noteworthy that in this period there was never a major fire on the studio property.

    Deputy Chief F. H. Rothermel and Captain Walter J. Shreves, retired, were drivers for Chief Eley in the latter years of his regime.  Chief Rothermel recalls the Chief's propensity for outdoor sports, especially hunting and fishing, and tells of many incidents reminiscent of this hobby.  One of these, a trip to a lake back of San Diego in company with the Mayor, came near a disastrous conclusion.  The pair had driven to the lake for a week end of fishing, taking with them a canvas boat the Chief had constructed.  A hole in the boat caused the men to be left floundering in the water with drowning imminent.  They fortunately made their was to the shore with all their gear at the bottom of the lake.  Their car developed mechanical trouble, they finally being compelled to summon assistance from Chief Rothermel, who furnished transportation to get the disappointed vacationists back to Los Angeles.

    An additional hobby of Chief Eley was prospecting.  It is said that he was familiar with many of the formations of the state, making periodic solitary sorties into the mountains in quest of deposits of valuable minerals.

    Three sons and two daughters survive Chief Eley. One son, Francis, is a lieutenant commander in the navy.

This article appeared in the July 1943 issue of the FIREMAN'S GRAPEVINE.

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