The Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

Era of the Horses
1886 to 1921

The era of the horses began in 1877 with the purchase of two horses for the volunteer company Hose Company 1 and ended July 19, 1921, when Water Tower 1, (the Gorter Water Tower), assigned to Engine Co. 24, was taken out of service and sent to the shops to be motorized.

" Engine Company 9 On A Run "

Select an era.:

* February 1, 1886 *

* 1893 *

* 1900 *

* 1911 *

The LAFD went into service on
Monday, February 1, 1886 with 4 fire stations, two 750-gpm steamers, two 2-wheel hose reels, a hose wagon, a 65' aerial ladder truck, 31 paid firemen, 24 reserve callmen and 11 horses to provide fire protection to a rapidly-growing city of 30 square miles and a population nearing 50,000 people.
In 1893 the LAFD operated with seven Engine Companies, two Chemical Companies, one Hose Company and one Truck Company.  The Department was led by a Chief Engineer and one Assistant Chief.  The link above will go to a page with a photos of each Company taken at a Department Inspection in 1893. In 1900 the LAFD opened 8 new engine houses for a total of 18. One hundred and twenty three full paid firemen and 80 fire horses provided the heart and soul of the Department. . In 1911 the LAFD had 163 fire horses, the most ever.   The last fire horse purchased by the Department was in 1915 and in July 1921 all the remaining horses were retired to Griffith Park.  The era of  the horses had come to an end. 

Fireman Jeff Morrison with Jim outside Engine Company No. 12
May, 1911

Circa 1900  Early Days Recalled
By Captain. Kurt F. Neitzke L.A.F.D. Ret.

The Life of A
Los Angeles City Fireman- 1904

By Fred S. Allen

Improvements Made in the Fire Department- 1906
Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1906


New Apparatus Added to the
City's Equipment.
Three Fine Engines and a
Wonderful Truck.
Unprecedented Fire Record
During December

Los Angeles Times, 
January 1, 1906

The Los Angeles Herald, April 17, 1906

The Fire Department in 1909

By Captain H. J. Griffin, Ret.

1909- Firemen's Line-Up
By Captain H. J. Griffin, Ret.

Trials and Tribulations 
of Horse Drawn Apparatus

By Paul R. Clark


South Spring Street
A short film by Thomas A. Edison
February 24, 1898
American Memory * Library of Congress
Edison Motion Pictures

Thomas Edison

Historical Maps of Los Angeles
1886 to 1899

Historical Maps and Photos of Los Angeles
1900 to 1909

Historical Photos of Los Angeles
1911 to 1917


Circa 1910
Fire Horses at the Corporation Yards
Avenue 19 and San Fernando Rd
(Current location of Department Shops)

T.  M. H A L L  AND  M O T H E R H E A D


Dedicated to all Old Timers and especially to
 L. P. Magill who drove old Cotton to his last fire in 1923.

Old Blackie and Cotton, 
you've gone to your rest;
    Your response to the siren is o'er;
Of all the fire horses we loved you the best;

    We grieve that we'll see you no more.
Faithful and patient, enduring the strain
    Of the long runs at night to the fire;
Doing your duty in sunshine and rain;
    With no voice to complain when you'd tire.

The men who are left, 
who worked with you then
    Are few, but their courage is high;
In memory of you, they are doing their job;
    A Fireman at heart till they die.

Even as you, were you living today;
    Would respond to the sound of the  gong;
We old timers may meet you, 
when we pass on our way;
    For our time on this earth can't be long.

When the last gong is sounded, 
the last fire is fought;
    That for us means the end of the way;
Old Blackie and Cotton, 
for the loyalty you brought;

    We old timers salute you today.
We've done our work well, 
through the years that have gone.
    Through this modern, progressive age;
To the end of the trail, 
when our work will be done;
    When like you, we close the last page.
                                         ----Flora Magill


Excerpts from Fire Department Annual Report
November 30, 1904

Once a Fire Hoses Always a Fire Horse
by H. A. Herman

The Los Angeles Herald, May 16, 1905

The Los Angeles Record, November 1, 1905


The Los Angeles Record, July 10, 1906

L. A. Sunday Herald Magazine, February 21, 1909

The Los Angeles Record Editorial Page
Circa 1911

"BLACKIE"- The Last Fire Horse
By Captain H. J. Griffin
The Fireman's Grapevine, March 15, 1937



Lt. Loebel with neighbor boy back of Engine House 12.



<    Chief Auble lays down the rules for the Fourth of July fireworks celebration.


    Here are a few "don'ts" for observance on the Fourth of July as dictated by Chief of Police Auble:
    Don't use blank cartridges.
    Don't forget to notice where the children explode their fire works.
    Don't throw papers on the street.  Any one doing so will be arrested.
    Don't explode crackers closer than three feet to a wooden building of any kind.
    Don't let the children fire anything but small crackers unless some grown person is with them.
    Don't forget to clear the dry weeds and papers out of the yard.
    Don't fire bombs in the downtown district--from the Plaza to Ninth sts, and from Hill east to Alameda sts.

    Don't abuse animals with fire works.
    Don't throw lighted fire works at women.

 Don't forget to make all the noise you can, and explode fire work's all over the city, in the yards, on the sidewalks and streets.
    Don't forget to show your Americanism!


    If the chief of police has his way every boy and girl will enjoy the Fourth of July.
    His heart throbs with joy every time he passes one of the  fire works stands, where small boys grin above poles of sky rockets and pin wheels.
    All over the city the fire works stands sprung up like mushrooms from Saturday night to Sunday morning, and every one seems to be doing a good business.
    Chief Auble has ordered the officers to clear all the vacant lots of obstructions in the way of papers, sticks and weds, and he wants the residents of Los Angeles to see that the work in their own yards is not neglected.



The Los Angeles Record, July 2, 1906


Voices a General Feeling

    LOS ANGELES, July 2.----To the Editor:  I wish to enter my protest against an intolerable nuisance.  We expect July 4 a general racket from early in the morning till late in the night, and I am the last man to deny the small boy or big one a particle of the pleasure he derives from cracker to cannon.  But for two weeks or more in this vicinity it has been a perpetual Fourth.  Not only the ordinary fire cracker, but larger and larger ones have been exploded at all hours and when most unexpected.  This  is July 2, and only a block away--yes, a half block--a dozen youngsters have been exploding an explosive that makes a report equal to a cannon.  Twenty or more have been exploded.  A machine arrangement that drops a weight upon the explosive was worked equal to "Fourth" activity.  And since that stopped about once a minute another article is being fired.

     Why cannot parents hold back their irrepressibles till the proper time?  And this continuous firing takes the fun all out of the great Independence Day when it does come.  Were it not too late I would ask the city fathers to prohibit all such work until the proper time;  to place firing crackers, cannons and explosives on the plane of firearms;  then, when the Fourth is here, let loose as much pandemonium as can be made with reasonable safety to life.  Next year I will try to suggest in time;  now I must be content with this protest.
                                                A VETERAN AND PATRIOT


The Los Angeles Evening News, July 3, 1906

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