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Panama-Pacific International Exposition Fire Department
San Francisco Fire Department
1914-1915 World's Fair

In May 1914, the Fair Commission contracted with the San Francisco Fire Department, to operate the Fire Protection facilities at the Fair.  An agreement between both parties meant the San Francisco Fire Department would supply the manpower for the fire protection equipment and the Fair would provide the stations, apparatus and other firefighting equipment.  The first company went into service at Station 1, June 9, 1914.

The motor driven fire apparatus was leased by the Fair under an exhibit contract from the American LaFrance Company, Elmira, New York, at a gross rental fee of $16,400.00, covering an average period of twenty (20) months.

Rental price was based on the type of apparatus rented:

Motor Squad and Hose Wagons
$65.00 per month
Motor Combination 700 gpm pumping engines
$90.00 per month
Motor Chemical Engine
$70.00 per month
Motor City Service Truck
$70.00 per month
Motor Aerial Ladder 85 foot Truck
$150.00 per month

PPIE Hose 2
Hose Co. No.  2, 1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, reg. #545, Turret/Hose Wagon with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine

Three Fire Stations were located on the Fairgrounds:

Station  1
Southeast corner of the Fairgrounds
Engine  1
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #540, Combination 700 gpm rotary gear pumper with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on March 13, 1914
Hose 1
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #544, Turret/Hose Wagon with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on April 18, 1914
Truck 1 
1914 American LaFrance, Type 25, registration #539, 2 axle 85' tillered Aerial Ladder with a front drive 6 cylinder 105 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on March 23, 1914
Squad 1
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #543, Squad/Chemical Wagon with 1-35 gallon soda acid tank, chain-drive with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on April 18, 1914
Station 2
Central Zone Area of the Fairgrounds
Engine 2
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #541, Combination 700 gpm rotary gear pumper with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on April 24, 1914
Hose 2
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #545, Turret/Hose Wagon with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on March 13, 1914
Chemical 2
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #537, Chemical Engine with 2-80 gallon soda acid tanks, one 300 foot reel of 1 inch chemical hose; chain-drive with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on July 11, 1914
Station 3
Northwest corner of the Fairgrounds
Engine 3
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #542, Combination 700 gpm rotary gear pumper with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on July 11, 1914
Hose 3
1914 American LaFrance, Type-12, registration #546, Turret/Hose Wagon with a 6 cylinder 100 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on April 29, 1914
Truck 3
1914 American LaFrance City Service Truck, Type 14-6, registration #538, two axle chain drive with a 6 cylinder 105 HP engine.  Received in San Francisco on March 23, 1914

PPIE Truck 3
Truck Co. No. 3, 1914 American LaFrance City Service Truck, Type 14-6, reg. #538, two axle chain drive with a 6 cylinder 105 HP engine


The SFFD organized Engine Company Co. 46 on June 24, 1913.  The company was assigned the Fair Grounds at the Panama Pacific International Exposition during the construction phase.  The company’s apparatus was a high pressure Hose Wagon and a small hose wagon, both horse drawn.  In fall of 1914, the company was relocated to new quarters at 441 12th Avenue.

In 1914 the American LaFrance Company used registration numbers in the 500's for leased apparatus.  Regular off- the- line registration numbers at the time were in the high 200's.

After the Fair closed, the apparatus was sold to the following cities:

Date Sold
Sold To
Chemical 2
El Segundo, California
Venice, California
Truck 1
Fresno, California
Engine 1
Sacramento, California
Engine 2
Woodside, California
Engine 3
Morro Bay, California
Squad 1
Oakdale, California.  Changed to a triple by adding 700 gpm pump
Hose 1
Sacramento, California
Hose 2
Winters, California.  Changed to a combination-triple by adding a 700 gpm pump and 1-35 gallon Soda Acid tank.
Hose 3
Sacramento, California

2014 Four of the ten above units are known to be still in existence.
Hose 2, Reg. #545 is still with the Winters Fire Department.
Truck 1, Reg. #539 is now part of the collection in the San Jose Fire Museum.  The truck was sold to several cities after Fresno.  San Jose purchased the truck from Watsonville after it was retired from service about 1970.
Engine 2, Reg. #541 and Engine 3, Reg. #542, are part of the collection of the Lindsay Fire Museum.

Pacific Firemen Newspaper Header

VOL. XII - NO. 13
Single Copies 5 Cents


By Howard G. Hanvey

According to experts on fire risk there is not an area in the world that is as safely guarded against conflagration as California's$50,000,000 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. On the 635 acres of highly inflammable structures, practically every known agent for fire fighting has been installed, from water to chemicals, and from high-powered motor apparatus to automatic sprinklers and alarms.

The Exposition fire-fighting system is a unit in itself, independent of San Francisco's system from the standpoint of everything except water. High-pressure and low-pressure mains on the Exposition grounds tap those of the city's system. With equipment the Exposition system represents a valuation of more than $500,000. In view of the fact that great disasters have gone hand in hand with expositions in the past, nothing has been left undone here in fire prevention.

Three modern up-to-date fire engine houses, harmonizing in architecture with the architectural scheme of the exposition, are situated on the grounds. No. 1, fire headquarters, is at the Fillmore street entrance, in the main exhibit palaces section; No. 2 firehouse is in the "Zone," the amusement area, and No. 3 is adjacent to the Fine Arts Palace, in the state and foreign nations section.

Chief's Buggy
On the right: SFFD Battalion Chief Jas. F. Layden, the Exposition Department Chief


Battalion Chief Jas. F. Layden, one of the city's oldest and most experienced fire fighters, is in charge of the Exposition department as chief, with Timothy Harrington assistant chief. At present there are 100 men, the pick of the city's department, stationed at the three houses, comprising in all seven companies, and by the formal opening of the Exposition this number will be greatly increased. The men are put through daily drills to acquaint themselves with the grounds and the intricacies of the great exhibit palaces and other structures.

The Exposition's motor fire apparatus alone is valued at $100,000 and represent, according to authorities on the subject, the very latest in equipment of that character. At the headquarters station are housed an aerial truck, a pumping engine, hose wagon and squad wagon, all motor driven. The aerial truck is equipped with eighty-five-foot ladders and is an innovation in ladder trucks in service on the coast. The squad wagon, in addition to hose and chemicals, carries a special crew of firemen, the purpose of this being to get to the scene of every fire in the quickest time possible with a force of men trained to take the lead in either extinguishing fire or preventing its communication to a larger area.

At No. 2 firehouse on the "Zone" are a pumping engine, a hose wagon and chemical. At No. 3 firehouse are a ladder truck and engine and hose wagon. The total equipment for the three houses consists of three pumping engines, two trucks, one chemical and one squad wagon, all motor driven. It is probable that the equipment may also be increased after the opening of the Exposition.


That the equipment can be gotten to the scene of a fire in a minimum amount of time was demonstrated recently at a test, when motor apparatus stationed on the "Zone" made the run through the Exposition to the westernmost extremity of the grounds in one minute and two seconds.

The Exposition taps the city's high-pressure system in eight and sixteen-inch mains, drawing on the 10,000,000 gallons of fresh water stored in the Twin Peaks reservoir. High-pressure hydrants are located 200 feet apart throughout the Exposition grounds, and at these 200 pounds pressure has been registered, which gives a higher nozzle pressure.

In addition to the high-pressure system there are several miles of mains, carrying the ordinary water supply, which in comparison with the city's emergency system is known as "low-pressure." The hydrants of these are situated twenty feet distant from the high-pressure. The hydrant of these are the ones which the motor fire engines use for increasing the nozzle pressure of the streams.

As in the city's system, in case of the failure of the fresh water supply in a great emergency, the Exposition can draw on the salt water pumping auxiliaries at Fort Mason and in Townsend street. Supplementary to these also are two manifolds, one located at the Exposition ferry slip, and another at Yacht Harbor, into which the fire tugs Scannell and Sullivan can pump. These manifolds connect with the system of mains on the grounds, and tests have shown that should all other means fail a tremendous pressure can be developed from the two tug manifolds.

Alarm Office Alarm Office
Alarm Phone


There are 194 high-pressure hydrants distributed over the grounds, with double valves and the same number of "low-pressure" hydrants. In addition to these there are ninety-five three-inch hydrants on the roofs of the main palaces, and batteries of six-inch swinging monitors. In Machinery Palace alone there are twenty-one hydrants on the 100-foot level. At all hydrants in the buildings and on the roofs are full equipments of hose, so that firemen do not have to delay pulling the hose after them when answering an emergency call.

Within each of the palaces are six forty-gallon chemical tanks on wheels and a large distribution of three-gallon fire extinguishers.

A model working exhibit in the Palace of Liberal Arts serves as the fire alarm signal bureau. There are 102 fire alarm boxes on the grounds, an alarm from any one of which goes into the Exposition signal station. No alarms on the Exposition grounds communicate with those of the city's system, excepting one vicinity alarm which is automatically sent in, calling city equipment to the Exposition gate nearest the scene of the fire. Besides this signal system, however, there is an auxiliary automatic system known as the Aero alarm. There are seventy-six miles of this system running through the main exhibit palaces. It consists of a hollow wire tubing, which on heating from a fire expands the air in it and automatically sends in an alarm.

PPIE Alarm Box
PPIE Alarm Box

A system of automatic fire sprinklers in the palaces and curtain sprinklers running along the top walls gives added protection to the big structures.

The Exposition fire protection system has been installed under the direction of W. M. Johnson, chief engineer of the department of water supply and fire protection and engineer of the National Board of Fire Underwriters. An advisory committee consisting of George W. Booth of the National Board of Fire Underwriters; F. H. Porter, manager of the Fire Underwriters' Inspection Bureau, George M. Robertson, Chief Engineer of the Board of Fire Underwriters of the Pacific, has supervised the development of the fire prevention system of the Exposition.


Like the forest ranger on his mountain top sweeping the Sierran timber for the smoke of a fire, an exposition guard stands day and night at the top of the Tower of Jewels, watching the forest of roofs and domes for a possible blaze aloft which might not be seen from the ground below.



There may have been a change as to who provided manpower  “An agreement between both parties meant the San Francisco Fire Department would supply the manpower for the fire protection equipment”.

Recently found in the “Fire Prevention Annual” of December 1924 is the following:  The organization charged with protecting this vast undertaking from fire, although paid by management of the exposition company, was a part of the San Francisco Fire Department, experienced men from the city forces having been exchanged with the new men employed by the corporation, the unit thus formed being under the direct supervision of the chief engineer of the San Francisco.
Source: “Fire Prevention Annual” of December 1924

1915 May 8

From committee selected for raising funds for the proper entertainment of visiting chiefs in 1915, requesting permission to hold a monster entertainment and vaudeville show in Festival Hall, Exposition grounds on July 4. Request granted.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.24, May 8, 1915


1915 May 31

Firemen thrilled over 30,000 visitors at the Exposition last Monday in extinguishing a fire which broke out on the roof of the Palace of Machinery, when Lieut. Stolzenwold and W. Licerring, carrying a fire hose, climbed the network of braces and steel rods to a eight of 200 feet. The then wriggled across a narrow beam to where the fire blazed, while from the floor of the palace Chief Murphy and other firemen and visitors shouted words of encouragement. The damage resulting to the building was slight.

On the report of the Chief Engineer and upon motion of the Fire Commission letter was ordered sent to Battalion Chief Layden of the P.P.I.E. . commending the efficient and good service rendered by his men at the Exposition on May 31, 1915, in handling the fire in Machinery Hall, said letter of commendation to be read to the crew by captains of the various companies.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.28, June 5, 1915

1915 June 5

The 23rd annual convention of the Pacific Coast Association of Fire Chiefs will be held at San Francisco, from September 27 to October 1, inclusive. The last day of the meeting will be known as Fire Chief’s Day. when special exercises will be held.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.28, June 5, 1915

1915 June 26

The great vaudeville show to be held at the Exposition grounds, Sunday, July 4, for the benefit of entertaining visiting fire chief’s under the auspices of the San Francisco Fire Department will eclipse anything the department has heretofore taken in hand.

There will be talent from the Orpheum, Cort, Columbia, Empress and Pantages theatres, and band and orchestra numbers by musicians at the Exposition.

It is estimated that over 6,000 tickets have been sold and the demand still continues.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.31, June 26, 1915


The benefit entertainment held in the Festival Hall at the Exposition grounds last Sunday afternoon for the purpose of raising funds to entertain visiting chiefs was financially and socially a great success. As President Fogarty stated in his address, "If all those who had purchased tickets were present the hall would certainly have been none too large to accommodate them."
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.33, July 10, 1915

1915 July 3

A detail of about fifty firemen took part in the great military parade Monday, which was headed by the chief's car, in which were seated Commissioners Fogarty and Herring, Chief Murphy, W. E. Carroll and Captain Jerry Collins at the wheel. Directly behind the chief's car, on foot, came Battalion Chief Cook at the head of four men carrying life-line guns, eight men encircled with ropes around shoulders, four men carrying life-nets, eight men carrying scaling ladders, and a detail of about thirty men marched, followed by a motor-driven squad wagon, brought up the rear end of the parade. The firemen, with their life-saving apparatus, attracted considerable attention from spectators along the line of march.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.33, July 10, 1915

1915 July 3

Saturday, July 3, the tug of-war contests between the crew from the battleship Oregon and the S. F. F. D. tug-of-war team was won by the S. F. F. D. team in five minutes.

The following are the names of the fire department team: Captain of team, Capt. J. E. Dolan, engine 19; anchor man, Leo Morsch, truck 6; Chris Lutz, truck 8; Walter Krohn, truck 1; Dan Sullivan, truck 5; Tony Swanberg, fireboat 1 and A. Penobesky, engine 10.

The contest took place at the P. P. I. E. grounds July 3, at 4 p. m. The winning team was presented with a magnificent silver cup. Presentation was made July 5, at 9 p. m by Battalion Chief Jas. Layden of the P. P. I. E. grounds to Capt. J. E. Dolan.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.33, July 10, 1915

1915 July 3

Monday afternoon, in front of the Zone at the Exposition grounds, under the supervision of Battalion Chief Layden, contests of skill and alertness took place between firemen.

The following are the names of the winners who were presented with medals:

Standing on sills—D. Voisin and L. Demattel of engine 2.

Standing on ladders—Wm. G. Dunn and C. Schlichtman of truck 2.

Rescue drill, consisting of ascending to fifth floor of tower with life line and ladder, make life line fast, and one member of team carrying down another on the line—Won by team composed of W. Viereckt, O. Kaufer and J. Murphy.

Standpipe and ladder drill, consisting of raising 32-foot ladder, going up inside to fifth floor, raising 50-foot section of hose and shutoff nozzle to roof and playing stream —Won in 1 minute 8 1/4 seconds by team composed of  H. Dowd, S. Nathan, G. Peterson and W. Bagala.

The firemen showed also how to jump in the life net and shoot a life-line to the top of the tower.

Engine company 1 also received a silver cup for getting water on first at a fire on the Marina last Saturday.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.33, July 10, 1915

1915 July 3

Mike Foley of engine company  19, one of the four men who shouldered the life-net in the parade from the ferry to the Exposition grounds last Monday, says by the time the reached the Exposition they were all lop-sided one shoulder being six inches higher than the other.

They were given  the afternoon off  but Mike went home and went to bed and next morning he says he was so sore his mother had to help him out of bed.

And the worst of it all he says his right hand is now two inches longer than the left.

What agony the three others suffered h says he can imagine from his own condition-they must all be lop sided.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO.33, July 10, 1915

1915 August 7

Four bronze medals won by the Sacramento Fire Department in competition at the Panama-Pacific Exposition officially were presented to the department last week.

On recommendation of Chief Murphy, Chief Layden and the Exposition fire-fighting force were commended for their efficient work in handling the late fire in the Food Products building, and the same was ordered to be spread upon the minutes.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XII.-NO. 37, August 7, 1915

1915 November 30

The athletic contests held in the Exposition grounds last Tuesday between the Fire and Police Department’s, included a tug-of-war, and a special rope-hauling competition, between the local and Berkeley firemen. In the evening a rescue fire drill took place at 10 o’clock at the fire station on the Zone. Exposition medals were presented to Chief Engineer Murphy and Chief of Police White. Secretary Rainey acted for Mayor Rolph as chairman of the occasion.
Source: Pacific Fireman, Vol. XIII.-NO.2, December 4, 1915

1918 July 1

In view of the fact that the fire prevention and fire protection features of the recent Panama-Pacific International Exposition were under the supervision of this department during the period of the construction and operation of the Exposition, I deem it fitting to submit a brief summary of the services performed by that department, inasmuch as the same was officered and principally composed of regular members of this department.

The fire fighting forces consisted of three engine companies, two truck companies, one chemical company and a flying squadron, consisted in all of ninety men when operated with the full equipment and but eighty men at the time of the close of the exposition.  Forty-four alarms of fire were responded to by these companies while the exposition was under course of construction and prior to its formal opening, 62 alarms within the grounds and 4 outside during its termination.  The financial loss from fire during the construction period and the operation of the exposition, extending over a period of several years, did not exceed the sum of  $250, which taking into consideration the exposed condition of the site and the inflammable nature of the buildings consisting of 443 structures, all frame with the exception of two, and covering a space of 635 acres, is remarkable to this department and the fire prevention methods adopted, more so in view of the fact that the losses from fire at the last two international expositions, namely St. Louis and Chicago, were $100,000 and $478,000 respectively, while these two expositions were in operation for but six months as against nine and one-half months for the recent exposition.
Thos. R. Murphy
Chief Engineer, S.F.F.D.
Source: 1918 Municipal Report, page 353

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