Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive


Captain, LAFD Retired

    Back in 1953 the State of California appropriated certain sums of money for a project to be called the Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.  A very important part of this monument was to be the restoration of an old fire hose erected in 1884.  Things have progressed now to the point that restoration is under way.

  For those who are not familiar with just what and where the old fire house is, I will give a resume of an article which appeared in an earlier edition of the GRAPEVINE.  The old house faces on the Plaza, being located at the corner of Plaza and Los Angeles Streets.  It looks more like a corner drug store right now than it does an old fire house, but upon taking a closer look you can see some features that set it apart from that of a drug store.  The hinge pivots on which the large front doors once swung are still in place.  Even the old bricks show wear where the doors rubbed against them for years.  On the east side of the building the 10 x 10 that aided in the hoisting of many tons of hay still protrudes out from the side over the opening to the hay loft.  A look in through one of the large windows will reveal the pole hole opening.

  Here is just a brief history of the old engine house.  Occupied in 1884 by the 38's Engine Company No. 1, it was the second organized volunteer fire company in the City of Los Angeles, the first having been disbanded because the city fathers would not provide them horses to draw the steamer through the pocked dirt streets of the old city.  The department went on a paid basis in 1886, and in 1887 the Walter S. Moore Engine Co. No. 4 took over the house.  This, incidentally, was the beginning of the present Engine 4.  In 1891, Chemical Company No. 1 was in charge and remained until the house was abandoned in 1896.

  The rest of the monument will included the old Pico House, the first Masonic Hall in Los Angeles, and the Merced Theater, one of the fist theaters in the city.  The fire house will be a focal point of interest in the monument.

 The old Plaza engine house will be a memorial to progress from the days of the bucket brigade through the steam era, up to the the present Class 1 Fire Department of Los Angeles.

  So often the generation of the present considers themselves as standing on the pinnacle of progress instead of just on the path of progress.  This monument will be a tribute to those men who worked without the conveniences of the present day fire department, when a man's entire career was spent in the confines of a 100' x 45' building.  He was allowed but three hours off a day.  This was almost the sum total of his family life. These men were dedicated servants.  They developed the techniques and methods upon which we base our knowledge.  Though we sometimes make light of their methods, we need but stop and realize that the transformation to the steam engine was probably the greatest step forward in fire suppression.  It removed fire fighting from the purely manual efforts of man to the mechanical efforts of a machine.  Where at one time 24 men manned a hand pump, now one man was on the pump permitting the other 23 to work directly on the fire.

  Very seldom in the history of a fire department do you find such a public relations opportunity as is presented to us here.  It will amount to a gift of about 70,000 dollars.  This will be the approximate cost of restoration.  We will be able to use this monument to further such activities as Fire Service Day, Fire Prevention Week, educational value from the standpoint of our Junior Fire Department.  It will also be of benefit in another way.  It will be a focal point from the standpoint of the individual fireman, a place where the retired fireman can go and sit and reminisce.  Though sometimes we look on the present with a rather calloused attitude because we are so close to it, of all the retired firemen I have interviewed I have yet to find one who was not sentimental and considered the days that he was an active fireman the best period of his life.  I think that feeling comes from the satisfaction of knowing that he was serving his fellowman.  There is no amount of material gain that can replace this satisfaction.

This article appeared in the June, 1959 issue of THE FIREMAN'S GRAPEVINE.

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