The Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

The Volunteers, 1871 to 1885


This is the earliest known photo of the Los Angeles Volunteer Fire Department.  There are discrepancies in the date and event shown.  A note written on the back  says: Spring & Main, building at rear (right side) Pico House and Merced Theater, right front Bella Union Hotel.  Below are two different captions related to this photo found in "The Firemen's Grapevine" and Paul Ditzel's "Century of Service".. 

"The first Fire Company was organized on September 30, 1871.  The boys are out celebrating the First Anniversary of the occasion with a parade.  This is the first known picture taken of the Fire Company.  The camera was pointing North from Main and Spring Streets.  The Pico House can be seen in the background.  The buildings back of the fire engine are on the present site of the Federal Building."

THE FIREMEN'S GRAPEVINE                                                                                                                                                                                      MARCH 1961

"The Los Angeles Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its first anniversary, September 30, 1872, with a parade through downtown streets.  They paused at Main and Temple Streets, where Photographer V. Wolfenstein captured the scene for posterity in a picture which was to become one of the  fire department's most famous through frequent reproductions of it."

The Fascinating Story of the Los Angeles Fire Department

Photo: 26 Plaza Street
Circa 1884
Los Angeles Engine Co. No. 1
The First Volunteer Company)
Organized November 1869, Effective September 1871
Disbanded in Spring of 1874
Re-Organized April 14, 1874 as
Thirty-Eights Engine Company No.1
The First Permanent Volunteer Company)
also known as
Original 38's Engine
First station located at Spring St. near Franklin
In 1884 moved to 26 Plaza Street

* * * * *

Confidence Engine Company   No.2
Organized May 27, 1875
On Main St. --near 1st St./ Spring St. --near Franklin

* * * * *

Vigilance Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1
later changed to
Village Hook & Ladder  Co. No.1
Organized 1876
On Los Angeles St., near Aliso.
later North Main --near the Plaza

* * * * *

Park Hose Co. No.1
Organized 1876
512 S. Spring St. --near Fifth St.

* * * * *

Southern Pacific Company No.1
Organized 1882
Near the San Fernando Street depot.
Owned and operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad

* * * * *

East Los Angeles  Hose Company No.2
Organized 1883
Truman St. --near Downey Ave.
Boyle Heights
(East L.A. was where N. Main and Broadway turn 
East after crossing the river.)

* * * * *

Morris Vineyard  Hose Co. No.3
Organized fall of 1883
15th and Hill St. --near Pico and Main St.

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Maps of Los Angeles 1877

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Street Map of Los Angeles 1886

*  *  *  *  *  





  Prior to the year 1871, fire extinguishing in Los Angeles was done by the volunteer fire brigade, assisted by "peons" and water buckets. It was not until September of that year that any organization was effected. At that time Engine Co. No.1 was organized by George M. Fall, then County Clerk, who was elected foreman with membership consisting mostly of prominent storekeepers and property owners who assisted in carrying hose. The apparatus consisted of and Amoskeag engine and a hose jumper. This equipment was hand drawn until the spring of 1874, when the company became dissatisfied and asked the City Council to purchase horses for the engine. On their refusal the company disbanded.

   In April, 1874, many of the old members of No.1, with the addition of others, altogether numbering thirty-eight, reorganized the company under the name of "Thirty-Eights-No.1" with the following officers:

Foreman, Chas, E. Miles
First Asst. John Cashin
Secretary, Sidney Lacy
Treasurer, J. Kuhrts

  Foreman Miles was succeeded by J. Khurts, W.F. McDonald, Sam Fay, Henry Decker and Henry Scheerer in the order named.

   In May,1875, Engine Co. No. 2 was organized as "Confidence Engine Company," with:

Foreman, George Furman
First Assistant, George Gard
Second Assistant, Joe Manning
President, John Briely
Secretary, Brice McLellan

  In 1876 Gard succeeded Furman as foreman, and
Walter S. Moore was elected secretary.

  The following foremen were elected and served in the order named:

Joe Manning
Robt. Eckert
Wm. Stoermer
Dan Moriarity.

  Walter S. Moore was elected president of the company in 1877 and occupied that office until 1884, when he was elected chief engineer of the Volunteer Department.

   The first truck company or "hook and ladder" was built in Los Angeles and housed with "Thirty-Eight's" (Eng. Co.No.1) on Spring St. near Franklin. Being too cumbersome and ill-adapted to the wants of the city, it was later sold to the town of Wilmington. In 1876, the city purchased a "Village Hook & Ladder" truck with served its purpose until 1881, when a 65 ft. extension ladder was purchased from the patentee, D.D. Hays of San Francisco. This truck was originally on Los Angeles Street near Aliso and later at North Main Street near the Plaza, where it was known as the "Village Hook & Ladder Co.No.1."

   In 1878 the residents in the vicinity of Sixth Street and Park originated a hose company under the name of "Park Hose Co.No.1." This company was located on Spring Street near Fifth.

   In the spring of 1883 the people of East Los Angeles originated a hose company. This company was called "East Los Angeles Hose Co.No.2" and was located on Truman Street near Downey Avenue.

   In the fall of 1883 the last but not the least of the volunteers was organized in the Morris Vineyard. Located between Pico and Washington, and Main and Flower Street, a house was built and a hose cart provided for the company, which was christened "Morris Vineyard Hose Co.No.3."

   In 1882 the Southern Pacific Railway employees in the vicinity of the river station (then the San Fernando Street depot) organized a very efficient hose company known as the "Southern Pacific No.1." Although not a member of the department, it worked in harmony and did much favorable service in the vicinity of the depot. All of these companies remained in service until February 1, 1886, when the present paid fire department came into existence.

  The volunteer fire department was organized June 20, 1876, by the election of the following officers:

Chief Engineer, Chas. E. Miles
Assistant Chief, Geo. Gard

  All selections in the volunteer fire department were by election. The members in good standing in their respective companies voted by ballot for their choice. These elections were very spirited and often much bitter feeling was shown.

  In 1886, prior to the paid department The volunteer organization at that time consisted of 380 members and the following apparatus:

  * Engine Co.No.1 situated at the Plaza
  * Confidence Engine No.2 at Second
      and Main Streets
  * Vigilance Hook & Ladder Co.No.2
      at Aliso Street below Alameda
  * Park Hose Co.No.1 at Fifth
      and Spring Streets.

This article appeared in the March 8, 1961 issue of the Fireman's Grapevine

Famous Names on Early Department Rosters
"Thirty-Eights" and "Confidence No. 2"
Los Angeles Herald, June 25, 1905


The Plaza Fire House

On December 11, 1885 Ordinance No. 205 was approved.
The Fire Department was created effective January 12, 1886.

The Era of the Volunteers 
ended  when
The Los Angeles Fire Department
went into service, February 1, 1886. 

Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.