Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

New Quarters
For Engine 1

By James N. Gilmore

  The past week has witnessed an important event in Los Angeles history.  A step forward in the modernization program of the Fire Department was seen in the moving of Engine and Truck Co. 1 to new quarters from the historic old firehouse at 1901 Pasadena Avenue.

  Fifty-three years have gone by since the ground was broken for the then modern structure.  A long stream of faces familiar in fire department memories passed through it during the long years it served the city.

  Following are the minutes of meetings which in 1874 began the organization of our earliest fire service:

Los Angeles
April 11, 1874

Meeting called for the purpose of forming a Fire Company to take charge of engine, etc., belonging to the City.  On motion, E. J. Workman was called to full the Chair Pro Tem and L. Lacy to act as Secretary.  On motion, a committee of five (5) were appointed to give the Company a name.

  Messrs. Johnson, Lambert, Lacriste, Miles, and Woolf, who reported in favor of one of the two following names:  Los Angeles No. 1, or the Thirty-Eights.  On motion, it was decided to call the Company, Los Angeles No. 1.    Carried.

  Moved by Mr. Miles to reconsider the question.  Carried.  The question being put the second time was lost.  Yeas 6, nays 27.  Moved to call the Company the Thirty-Eights Engine No. 1.  Carried, Yeas 27, nays 6.

  Nominations being now in order, the following officers were nominated and elected for the term of six months ending the first Monday in October.

  Foreman, Charles E. Miles;  1st Assistant, John Cashion;  Fireman Hose, Theo. Froelinger;  Secretary, L. Lacy;  Treasurer, J. Kurhts;  Standing Committee:  E. J. Workman, R. J. Woolf, W. C. Cayton, L. J. Lacriste and J. Farnhart.

  Move to appoint Committee to draft Constitution and By-Lays.  The following members were appointed on this committee:  Kurhts, Fitzpatrick, Cashion and Lacriste.  The Foreman and Secretary were also added.

  There being no other business before the house, meeting adjourned until Monday, April 13th, at 9 1/2 o'clock p.m.

Sidney Lacy, Secretary

Los Angeles
April 13, 1874

Special meeting of the Thirty-Engines for the purpose of drafting Constitution and By-Laws, and receive Engine, Hose, etc. from the City.

  Moved that the reading of the minutes and roll call be dispensed with.    Carried.

  The Foreman stated that owing to the Council not having called a special meeting, the Engine, etc., had not been formally turned over to the Company.  But the Mayor on his own responsibility had given the Company charge of the same until the meeting of the Council on Thursday.

  The Chairman of Committee appointed to draft Constitution and By-Laws stated that were ready to report, and on motion, the Secretary was requested to read the same, section by section, and on so doing, the Company adopted the Constitution By-Laws reported by the Committee.  The Foreman stated that by the adoption of the Constitution and By-Laws, it would be necessary to elect two more officers, Assistant of Hose and Foreman of Hook and Ladder.

  D. W. Fitzpatrick was nominated and elected Assistant Foreman of Hose and J. Farnhart, Foreman of of Hook and Ladder.
  Moved that all persons wishing to become members of the 38's by sending in their names by the next meeting be admitted without paying an initiation fee.  Carried.  On motion, a Committee was appointed to report on a suitable uniform for the Company.  The Foreman appointed the following members to report on a suitable uniform for the Company.  The Foreman appointed the following members to report at next meeting:  Breson, Lacriste and McDonald.

  Moved that Secretary be empower'd to purchase what books, etc., he needs for the use of the Company.     Carried.

  There being no other business before the house meeting adjourned until Friday evening, April 17th.

Sidney Lacy, Secretary

Los Angeles
Thursday, April 16, 1874

  Special meeting called for the purpose of receiving the Engine, Hose, etc., belonging to the City, from the Committee appointed by the Common Council consisting of Messrs. Gerkins and Huber.

  The Foreman called the meeting to order, and stated the purpose of the meeting, and then adjourned to the Engine House where the following articles were turned over to the officers of the Company by Messrs. Gerkins and Huber.

  One Amoskeag Engine No. 393, One hose carriage, 650 ft. Carbolized hose, 750 ft. leather hose, one truck, five ladders, six buckets, five axes, five hooks, two stays, eight spanners, two lanterns, twelve hook and straps, one set double harness, 50 ft. one-inch hose, three butts, one fire bell, all of which was accepted by acclamation by the Company.

  Meeting then adjourned.

Sidney Lacey, Secretary

  Authentic records of the early company are a bit sketchy, any journals which may have been kept prior to 1905 having been lost.  The first volunteer company known as "Engine 1" was housed in a small adobe building adjoining the old City Hall, then located on North Spring Street.

  Equipment consisted of the old Amoskeag steam fire engine, obtained for the most part through public donations, the first of its kind in the Southwest;  and a hosejumper.  These were hauled by the volunteers over unimproved streets when occasion required, a laborious task.

  A request for a team of horses for the engine was refused by the City Council and early in 1874 the company was disbanded, leaving the city without organized fire protection for a time.
  In April, 1874, another company known as "38's Engine Company No. 1" was organized, making use of the same equipment.  Apparently this company continued until the organization of the paid Fire Department in 1886.

Ordinance No. 205, passed in December, 1885, established the municipally financed and controlled Los Angeles Fire Department.  The ordinance provided for a board of Fire Commissioners, consisting of the Mayor, the President of the City Council and a member of the City Council, elected by that body.

  The Honorable E. F. Spence, Mayor; H. Sinsabaugh, President of the City Council, and Jacob Kuhrts, member of the Council, composed the first board.

  Many older members of the department will remember Jacob Kuhrts as an an honored guest at a banquet held in 1925 on the fourth floor of the present headquarters building.

  In 1888 a new building was provided for Engine Company No. 1 at 1901 Pasadena Avenue.  Apparently no exact record of the first personnel of  the old company exists, but a special souvenir issue of the "Labor World", in May, 1898, was devoted to the Fire Department and shows that Hugh Heany, Joe Sepulveda and Frank Leiva were paid members at that time.  The company personnel was supplemented with "call men" who were paid a certain sum each time they responded to a call.  Names of call-men were listed and any failing to respond were marked up with a "goose-egg", three consecutive goose-eggs automatically taking a man's name off the list.

  However, many call-men became regular paid members of the department.

  One of these men who later became a regular member of the department was Battalion Chief Charles B. Casey, Retired.  Chief Casey recalls that a little "political pull" through an acquaintance, one Dennis McCarthy, who was a friend of the Mayor, helped to get him a regular appointment.

  About 1899 an addition was built onto the house for the Lincoln Heights jail which was located there until 1909.

  Names of former inmates can still be seen, carved in the old woodwork of this addition and the iron bars remain on the windows.  One old-timer, now pensioned, recalls that it was customary for the firemen to answer the phone when the police were out, making note of the calls which came in.  One day when the firemen had the place to themselves and a big crap-game was in progress, Sergeant McKeag walked in on them.  He threatened to turn the "Fire Department" in and take them all back and lock them up in the one cell.  However his "bark was worse than his bite" and he finally let them off with a stern reprimand.

  Captain Paul Save, retired, and now in the insurance business, joined Engine 1 about 1901.  John Roeder, who is still on the job, was transferred to Engine 1 in 1910 and remained there until 1923.  Much of  his time was spent in the old Corporation yard where the relief horses were kept and the hay, coal and briquettes were stored.  In a reminiscent mood Johnny can tell many interesting stories about the old days at Engine 1's.

  Elmer Rhoads, retired, has an interesting collection of pictures, as well as stories of the old house.  

  Mrs. Charles Grotzinger, the widow of an early day Captain of Engine 1, lives a block north of the new station on Avenue 23.

  Captain Harry Taber and Engineer William Heaney, both retired and former members of Engine 1, also live nearby and drop in often.

  For as long as mist of these old-timers can remember, the old house has been in a state of disrepair, growing more dilapidated year by year.  At the time the writer went into it as a newly appointed engineer, in 1927, it was overrun with rats, the roof leaked, the plaster had fallen off the ceiling and been replaced with cardboard, floors were patched with pieces of siding from the walls of the old jail, many windows were without glass, the plumbing was leaky and the entire place dingy and cheerless.

  For years the building has been condemned as unsafe for occupancy and numerous Councilmen have gone in and out of office promising the District a new fire station.  But still the old engine house has remained, a landmark and an eyesore, up to the present time.

  On March 7, 1940, actual construction of the new station at 2230 Pasadena Avenue, began, under WPA supervision. The estimated cost was $80,840, the cost to the city being about $29,000.  Plans for the building were the work of P. K. Schabarum and Mr. Charles O. Brittain of the City Department of Construction.

  It is a two-story, reinforced concrete structure, housing Engine Company No. 1, and Truck Company No. 1, formerly Truck 19;  also headquarters for Chief of Battalion 2.  The upper floor has a recreation room, separate quarters for Chief and Captains, a large dormitory and steam-heated locker and shower rooms.  A smaller separate building contains a well equipped kitchen.  The white enameled electric refrigerator and gas stove would make any housewife envious.

  People ask us if we don't regret having to leave the old house after so many years there.

  The Answer is NO!

This article appeared in the March 15, 1941 issue of the GRAPE VINE.

Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.