Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

     Ocean Park's Million-Dollar-Pier Fire
     Santa Monica
     September 4, 1912

Ocean Park's famous Fraser's Million-Dollar-Pier Fire
Rose Avenue and Trolleyway (Speedway)
September 4, 1912

    The speed with which the LAFD's first motorized apparatus could get to a fire was impressively demonstrated late on the afternoon of September 4, 1912, when Chief Eley was notified that Ocean Park's famous Fraser's Million-Dollar-Pier was burning.  Ocean Park, Santa Monica and Venice firefighters needed the LAFD's help.  The gigantic amusement pier was more than 14 miles from headquarters.  Horse-drawn equipment could not possibly make the run.  Eley ordered the nearest motorized pumper - Engine 26's Robinson - to respond along with Hose 5 at 1409 West Vernon Avenue and Engines 4 and 13 from downtown.

    Heading out Washington Boulevard to the beach, Eley and the four motorized companies fought heavy traffic as thousands of spectators were driving toward the awesome thick black cloud of smoke that was obscuring the setting sun.  Eley arrived and all four companies were operation in less than 27 minutes after the chief engineer was called at headquarters.  The long wooden pier and its many attractions - the famous observation ballroom, the Crazy House, Dragon's Gorge and the auditorium-dance pavilion - were doomed.  Without fireboats, there was absolutely no way to make an attack on the fire and it was too dangerous to bring men and apparatus onto the pier.  Fraser's Million-Dollar-Pier was written off as lost while the stiff breeze from the ocean drove thick smoke and heat directly at firefighters.

    Flames firebrands and radiant heat joined together as the fire jumped the Ocean Front traffic way and began gnawing into blocks of buildings in an area encompassing Ashland Avenue on the north, Rose Avenue on the south and Trolleyway (Speedway) on the east.  Jam-packed among these narrow streets were six blocks of wooden cottages, brick hotels, apartment houses, stores and commercial buildings.

    Eley and his four companies, assisted by LAFD volunteers from stations in the western section of the city, set up a battleline on Pier Avenue to protect the Auto Inn Garage, despite warnings that a 300-gallon storage tank of gasoline was inside.  After an hour-long battle, radiant heat ignited the garage and bulled firefighters backward.  The tank exploded and skyrocketed over their heads.  Paul Shoup, president of the Pacific Electric Railway, sent word to Eley that he had a train of flat cars standing by to rush more fire engines to the beach, Eley gratefully accepted.

    By night fall, the glare and flames could be seen from most parts of Los Angeles.  The observation balloon's tie-down ropes burned away.  Lifting skyward, the ropes snagged the burning flagpole atop the dance pavilion and carried it upward.  The blazing balloon was blown far inland by the stiff ocean wind and then come crashing sown 40 miles away in San Dimas.

    The conflagration raged for nearly four hours as it wiped out the pier, everything on it and destroyed or damaged 225 structures in a six-block area of almost complete devastation.  One man was drowned when he jumped off the end of the pier into heavy surf and 15 other persons were missing by midnight.  Losses were set at $3 million.  The site would one day become the Pacific Ocean Park amusement center which itself would become the site of several severe fires.

Source: LAFD CENTENNIAL by Paul Ditzel p83-84.

Source: Los Angeles Public Library

Source: Los Angeles Public Library

Source: Los Angeles Public Library

Source: Los Angeles Public Library


Founding of Ocean Park

Fraser "Million Dollar" Pier - Photo Map -1912

Fraser's Million Dollar Pier

Amusement Pier Fires

Venice Construction


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