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
Following are the minutes of meetings which in 1874 began the organization
of our earliest fire service:
April 11, 1874
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.
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.
April 13, 1874
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
Moved that Secretary be empower'd to purchase what books,
etc., he needs for the use of the Company.
There being no other business before the house meeting
adjourned until Friday evening, April 17th.
Thursday, April 16, 1874
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.
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
The Honorable E. F. Spence, Mayor; H. Sinsabaugh, President of the
City Council, and Jacob Kuhrts, member of the Council, composed the first
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
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
The Answer is NO!