Vallejo's first Fire Department was an all-volunteer department which was started in 1858. Prior to this date, the fire watch was handled by the town's night watchman who alerted the citizens of a fire with a shot of his revolver.
The first volunteer department consisted of the following companies:
Hook and Ladder No. 1 (Organized in 1859)
401 Sacramento Street
San Pablo Engine Company No. 1 (Organized in 1965)
City Hall, Marin Street
Vallejo Volunteer Fire Department (Organized in 1865)
Neptune Hose Company No. 1 (Organized in 1865)
615 Sacramento Street
Phoenix Engine Company No. 2 (Organized in 1874)
Lemon Street - South Vallejo
Hartford Hose Company No. 2 (Organized in 1892)
817 Branciforte Street
Sheridan Hose Company No. 3 (Organized in 1892)
1026 Maine Street
Alert T. & H. No. 2 (Organized in 1895)
On Napa Street between Ohio and Louisiana Streets
Volunteers hauled the equipment, and there was a great rivalry between the volunteer fire departments. Races would occur between the departments to be the first to hook up to the hydrant. Fights at the hydrants were the rule. While their services were strictly voluntary, firefighters were exempt from the existing poll tax and also from Jury Duty. These benefits were repealed in 1875 by the State Legislature.
All went well until 1876 when the San Pablo Engine House burst into flames. The fire destroyed both the engine house and Vallejo's firefighting equipment. New equipment was purchased, volunteers again stepped forward, and the city was protected once more.
The year 1906 saw major innovation in the department with the arrival of Bob and Jack, two (2) horses who now hauled fire equipment to the fire scene and made the City Commissioners they were named after justifiably proud. This year also brought three (3) paid men, earning $85.00 a month, to the city forces for the first time. The Fire Chief received only a small salary and the remainder of the force continued as volunteers. In 1912, the position of Chief was made a full-time position and the entire fire department became a paid department. In 1913, the department purchased its first piece of motor driven apparatus - a Knox Chemical Wagon.
In 1920 the first pumper, a Seagrave, arrived to ease the burden of the six (6) regular fire personnel who then had one (1) day off a week. By 1926 conditions had improved to where the department's regulars earned $150.00 a month and had a day off every fourth day.
With the coming of the thirties, Vallejo's second station opened, 12 additional men were hired and American La France delivered a 750 gallon, 50’ ladder truck.
During World War II the population of Vallejo swelled to 125,000 and the fire department grew to eight (8) engine companies and 98 men, augmented with two (2) 750 GPM pumpers and four (4) 500 GPM pumpers.
Men of the old San Pablo Engine Company would not recognize the Fire Department of this city today. The Vallejo Fire Department consists of 72 uniformed personnel located at six (6) stations. Vallejo's 33 pieces of apparatus includes such diverse equipment as command vehicles, and an air truck that provides on-the-scene capability for refilling firefighters' self-contained breathing apparatus at the fire. Large capacity pumpers that deliver 1,500 gallons of water per minute; an 85 foot elevated platform truck and 85 foot aerial ladders, a water tender of 3,000 gallons with foam capabilities. The communication system for police and fire is of the latest design utilizing computers and modern electronics staffed by ten operators.
In 1865 the firefighter's safety depended upon an ornate leather helmet of questionable design, a bright red double-breasted shirt with brass buttons and black heavy pants. Smoke was filtered through a wet beard.
Today's firefighters would never consider fighting fire dressed in this manner. The turnout gear of today is of the latest design, flame resistant, space age fabric and comes with a vapor barrier. Breathing is from self-contained, positive pressure breathing apparatus and is carried on the firefighters back. It also features a built in radio communication feature within the mask.
In 1865, training was accomplished through the on-the-scene method. Today, training is conducted by a full-time training officer following guidelines set by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Firefighters, and the state of California. Training is conducted in classrooms at the Training Center, at the departments four story drill tower and on Mare Island in our newly constructed training facility. The training division utilizes televisions located in fire stations to deliver taped training programs that are received via a satellite 7000 miles above the equator. Training is the only way to prepare today's firefighters to continue responding to calls for emergency service to the citizens of the City of Vallejo - a service that started in 1858.