San Francisco Fire Department
The Paid Department - December 3, 1866
The legal basis for the origin of the Paid Department stemmed from legislation titled, "An Act to Establish a Paid Fire Department for the City and County of San Francisco." (Approval by the State Legislature was granted on March 2, 1866.) The Act provided for a five man Board of Fire Commissioners to manage the affairs of the Department.
The Fire Department consisted of a Chief Engineer, two Assistant Chiefs, one Corporation Yard Keeper and six steam fire engine companies. Each engine company was to have one foreman, one engineer, one driver, one fireman, and eight extra or "call" men. There were two Hook-and-Ladder Companies each consisting of one foreman, one driver, one tillerman and twelve extra men. Additionally, there were three Hose Companies, each consisting of one foreman, one driver, one steward and six extra men.
During April of 1866, the Board of Supervisors purchased four steam fire engines and one hose reel from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company of Manchester, New Hampshire. This purchase was made at a cost of $17,655. In July of the same year the Supervisors also bought twenty-seven horses to provide motive power for the new and heavier equipment.
One of the first acts of the new Board of Fire Commissioners was to appoint the Department executive officers. On October 6, 1866 Franklin E. R. Whitneywas appointed Chief Engineer; H.W. Burckes, First Assistant Chief; and Charles H. Ackerson, Second Assistant Chief.
The Department went into active operation on December 3, 1866. Daniel Hayes,was appointed Superintendent of Steamers, Tom Sawyer,Corporation Yard Keeper, and John L. Durkee, Fire Marshal.
Salaries of the officers and men were fixed by statute as follows: Chief Engineer, $250 per month; Assistant, $100; Foreman, $30; Engineer, $80; Driver, $60; Tillerman, $50; and extra man, $20. The terms of office of the Chief Engineer and Assistant Chiefs were fixed at two years.
Chief Whitney filled the office of Chief Engineer until July 20, 1870 upon which date Charles Ackerson assumed the office. During the first seven months of the new Department there had been one hundred and fifty nine fires, of which forty-four were suspected of being arson.
Matters in the Department had not been running smoothly and the influence of political partisanship was having a demoralizing effect. Chief Ackerson's term of office was of brief duration, and on April 3, 1871, David Scannell was appointed the new Chief Engineer.
Chief Scannell was very popular and his appointment gave general satisfaction, not only in the city, but in all surrounding districts. Some five hundred members of the former volunteers paraded through the streets in warm appreciation of the appointment of their old chief.
In 1871 while Scannell was chief, a disastrous fire on Market Street exposed several weak spots in the Fire Department. The fire was in the Harpending Business Block, a group of eight, three story brick buildings. No department ladder could reach the top of the third story, and several of those used, broke during firefighting operations. To add to the confusion, the fire hose continually burst when the pressure was raised in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the upper floors with adequate streams.
The fire caused an outburst of public indignation and much criticism by the press. Chief Scannell was ill during this period, but the Board of Fire Commissioners was quick to act and correct the deficiencies of the Department.
As a result of this fire the "Hayes" truck was put into service for the first time. This truck had been invented by Daniel D. Hayes, the Superintendent of Steamers, and built under his license in 1868. The City had purchased the truck for $3,000 but it had laid idle for three years.
It was the first "aerial” ladder used in the Department and it quickly replaced the old splice-ladder then in use. It was a mechanically operated turntable ladder which was raised by operation of a crank that turned a worm assembly. The Hayes Truck gained national fame, and by the year 1900, over two hundred and ninety were in service throughout the country.
In 1873 the Department was beset by internal troubles initiated by a dispute between two of the Fire Commissioners. A Judgment of the Supreme Court had decided that a Mr. Merrill was entitled to a seat on the board, and then claimed by a Mr. Bulger. So strong was the spirit of partisanship between contending factions that Chief Scannell was sacrificed. In April of that year the Board of Fire Commissioners removed him from office and appointed Chief Whitney in his place. Before the year was out a new Board of Commissioners was elected, and on December 1, 1873 Scannell was reappointed Chief Engineer.
However, Chief Whitney refused to turn over the Department to Chief Scannell, claiming the meeting of the new board was irregular. The Department was confronted with the unique situation of having two Chiefs and two Board of Fire Commissioners. The two boards met at the same time and in the same room, each claiming the exclusive right to act. The situation was finally resolved in favor of Chief Scannell and the new board, but not before matters had gone so far that a warrant for the arrest of Chief Whitney had been issued.
An innovation made in July 1878 was the organization of the first fireboat company. Built in San Francisco, the tug "Governor Irwin" was tendered to the Fire Commissioners and performed valuable service on the city waterfront. She was eighty-six feet long, carried twelve hundred feet of hose and pumped 65,000 gallons per hour. After a short period of service it was recommissioned as Hose Company No. 9, located at Broadway Wharf.
At this time Fire Department Headquarters was at old City Hall, 235 Kearny Street. Membership in the department had grown to 276 regulars plus 201 extra men. The department had 62 horses in service and in the preceding year 321 alarms had been answered. The number of hydrants throughout the City had increased to 1,247.
On May 17th, 1890 Chemical Engine Company No. 1 was organized as an experiment. It was located at the south-west corner of Mission and New Montgomery, and quickly proved its worth. It was much lighter than the steam engines, better adapted for the hilly districts, and its speed of operation made it one of the department's most important pieces of apparatus for many years to come.
On July 1st, 1891, Chief Scannell put the first water tower into service at 50 Sacramento Street. It was first class Hale Tower that gave good service until destroyed by falling walls at a fire at Fourth and Folsom Streets. A replacement tower (Gorter) was built by the local Corporation Yard and put in service in 1898.
Earlier, Chief Scannell had recommended limiting frame buildings to 60 feet in height, and the installation of fire escapes and standpipes on tall buildings. The City was expanding rapidly and the Chief was taking every step he could to keep abreast of its needs.
On March 30, 1893, Chief Scannell died while still in service. He had been a member for forty-three years, and served as Chief Engineer for nearly a quarter of a century. He had been a good organizer and an ideal Chief. The Department had prospered greatly under his tenure.
By his will he left a sum of $2,000, the annual interest of which is applied to the purchase of the "David Scannell" medal. This medal is an award given to firemen who have performed meritoriously at personal risk of their own lives. The Chief Engineer, the Mayor and the Controller are the custodians of the fund.
The first award was made on August 20, 1896 to Battalion Chief John Wills for rescuing a woman from a burning building at 52 Fifth Street. In the intervening years the medal has been awarded several times for heroic acts. The latest award was made posthumously to Captain Andrew Benton, who gave his life on September 1, 1964 after rescuing a woman from a burning building at 391 Valencia Street.
After Chief Scannell's death, Dennis T. Sullivan assumed command of the Department, and it soon became evident that he was fully equal to the task. A fireman of the highest ability, and a firm disciplinarian, his leadership brought the Department to a very high standard of efficiency.
During his term of office several more companies were organized and two Drill Towers were erected. The first Drill Tower was built in July 1898 at 3050 - 17th Street, and a second one was also constructed at Francisco and Stockton Streets. The latter was destroyed by fire in 1906, while the first one burned on November 1, 1919, with the loss of one fireman's life. This tower was then replaced by one of brick and steel, seven stories high, located in a gore of land bounded by Bryant, Eleventh, and Division Streets.
In 1898, Chief Sullivan recommended that the use of "Call" or extra men be abolished and the Department be organized into a fully paid department. At the time, there were 344 "Call" men who worked at their regular occupations throughout the City and only responded when needed. During the day, they were summoned by steam whistles, while at night, fire alarm tappers installed in their homes notified them of an alarm. Chief Sullivan's recommendations were adopted when a new City Charter, passed on January 8, 1900, reorganized the Department upon a fully paid basis.
The Department had grown in size to thirty-six engine companies, eight truck companies, seven chemical companies, one water tower and two monitor batteries.
Civil Service replaced the former methods of determining the fitness of departmental candidates. The first examination under the new charter was held on February 1903, in the gymnasium of the Olympic Club.
Pension provisions were also liberalized, providing half pay for disability and a service pension after twenty-five years of duty.
The new charter placed the Fire Department under the management of a four man Board of Fire Commissioners appointed by the Mayor for a term of four years. Their annual salary was set at $1,200.
Under the new regime, Chief Sullivan retained his post as Chief Engineer; John Dougherty became First Assistant, and P.H. Shaughnessy, Second Assistant Engineer. The title of Battalion Chief replaced the office of Assistant or District Engineer, and the Department of Electricity was charged with supervision of the Fire Alarm Office.
A modern fire alarm system had been installed. Water mains with over four thousand hydrants connected had displaced the old time fire cisterns. These cisterns were, despite Chief Sullivan's recommendations to the contrary and in the face of his repeated warnings, allowed to deteriorate. All other equipment and appurtenances of the Department, on the whole, where thoroughly modern and in good condition.
No alarm sounded for the greatest disaster that ever devastated San Francisco. The first jarring shock of the earthquake that struck the City on the morning of April 18, 1906 broke five hundred and fifty-six of the six hundred batteries that operated the fire alarm system, effectively silencing it.
Within a few hours, fifty-two fires had started. Before the flames were extinguished three days later, an estimated four hundred and seventy eight persons were dead, and the property loss was over $350,000,000. The area burned was 4.7 square miles, which included the entire down town section. Twenty-eight thousand buildings had been destroyed by the combined destructiveness of the earthquake and fire. (Ed. After 25 years of research it has been discovered that the number of deaths from the 1906 Earthquake & Fire was over 3,000 persons - 2009)
The Department was immeasurably handicapped by the lack of water. The mains conducting the supply of water to the City had been ruptured beyond immediate repair, and the supply stored in the city reservoirs soon wasted through numerous breaks in the distributing mains. Water had to be drafted from the few cisterns that were soon dry, and even from the large main sewers.
Most of the big downtown fires had combined into one, the oncoming flames having at one time formed a three mile front. The Department never stopped, its men dropping from exhaustion and sleeping as they lay in the streets - only to get up in a few minutes and go after the fire again. Word that their beloved Chief, Dennis T. Sullivan, was dying from injuries spurred the men on to make a valiant battle for him, as he would have wanted done had he been able to direct them. Chief Sullivan was injured by falling walls while in his quarters on Bush Street and died four days later in Letterman Hospital.
Relentlessly the flames went on through the days and nights of the 18th, 19th, and 20th. In the early dawn of April 21st, the progress of the fire was finally stopped at Van Ness Avenue, a hundred foot wide thoroughfare.
The Department had lost twenty of its houses. Three steam engines, one hook and ladder, one monitor battery, four autos, two hose wagons, and two buggies had all been destroyed. Also lost to the flames had been over half of all Department hose.
John Dougherty, First Assistant, temporarily succeeded Chief Sullivan, but being well along in years, he relinquished the reins to Patrick H. Shaughnessy, who was appointed Chief Engineer on June 15, 1906.
Chief Shaughnessy showed great initiative and lost no time in rebuilding the Department to its former effectiveness. It was during his term of office that construction was initiated for installation of the Auxiliary Water Supply System, considered to be one of the most important protective features of the Department. It permits the rapid concentration of powerful streams without the use of pumpers in the congested value and adjoining mercantile, industrial and closely built residential districts.
Construction of the system had been repeatedly urged by Chief Sullivan since the late 1800's, but it took the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 to give the necessary impetus for initiation.
Authorized by a bond issue of $5,200,000, the system was designed by the foremost engineering experts with a view to preventing a recurrence of the 1906 catastrophe. The system, comprised of Twin Peaks Reservoir at an elevation of 750 feet, and complimented by two intermediate tanks, is able to supply almost any block of the congested high-value district with 15,000 gallons a minute at a pressure of 229 psi. The supply is delivered through a closely gridironed distribution system which was served initially by 889 hydrants. These hydrants were, and still are, for the exclusive use of the Fire Department. (Hydrants now number over 1400) 1974
Two pumping stations built on bed rock, with a combined capacity of 24,000 gallons per minute at a 300 pound pressure, are ready to pump into the high pressure system at a moment's notice.
Two fireboats, the Dennis T. Sullivan, and David Scannell, while independent fire fighting units, were built as, and formed part of, the city's "Auxiliary Water Supply System." Completed in 1909 at the Risdon Iron Works at a combined cost of $279,618, they were each capable of delivering 10,000 gallons of water per minute. Permanent manifold connections located along the waterfront permitted either or both of the boats to pump into and supplement the high pressure system.
These boats effectively safeguarded the harbor and waterfront for many years until 1954, when they were retired from service due to prohibitive maintenance costs. They were replaced by the diesel-powered “Phoenix", which has a pumping capacity of 9600 gallons per minute.
As part of the initial auxiliary supply, a system of underground reinforced concrete cisterns was developed. Averaging 75,000 gallons each, and now numbering over one hundred and fifty, they are scattered strategically throughout the City to provide an emergency supply in the event of any failure of the regular water distribution system. The entire installation was completed in 1913, and formally accepted by the Fire Department in January 1914.
On March 16, 1910, Chief Shaughnessy, having successfully led the Department through one of its more crucial periods, retired from service.
Thomas R. Murphy, the next Chief Engineer, was only forty years old at the time he assumed command of the Department. He came at a time when the Department was facing another great challenge; the replacement of horse-drawn equipment with the newly developed motorized fire engine.
The horses had been a remarkable success since the day in 1863 when they had first seen fire service. To meet the unusual demands and standards required by the Fire Department, a special breed had been developed which was a cross between the great Percheron mares and the English Trotter stallions. They were placed in service when four years old and often served to the age of twenty-four years, after which they were retired to a farm near Martinez. With the advent of motorized equipment however, the end of their usefulness was drawing near.
On July 11, 1912, a unique contest was conducted in the presence of Chief Murphy, the Fire Commissioners, the Fire Committee of the Board of Supervisors, and a large attending crowd. A newly designed motor drawn apparatus, the Nott Motor Engine, was to be pitted against the finest horse drawn rig in the Department. The object of the contest was to determine the swiftest and most efficient of the two.
The start of the race was from Second Avenue & Clement Street, the old house of Twenty-six Engine. At the sound of the gong the horses leaped into their collars and charged out the door, smoke already belching from the steamer. The driver of the Nott Motor Engine cranked his machine and was quickly in pursuit. His objective was the hydrant at Thirteenth and Lake Streets. He made it in 2 minutes and 20 seconds and the crew had water out the nozzle in a total elapsed time of 3 minutes and 40 seconds.
The foam flecked horses drew up to their hydrant at Eleventh and Lake in 3 minutes and 55 seconds, with water flowing in 5 minutes and 6 seconds.
Everyone knew what the results meant. The days of the horses had passed, and after this time none were purchased for Fire Department use.
In 1903, the first electric auto had been purchased for the Chief and three more were bought in 1905, but they proved unreliable and none were in service at the time of the Fire.
The first motor driven apparatus was installed in Chemical Company No. 3 on Bush Street in 1912. In March of the next year the first auto-driven steam engine was installed at Engine Company Twenty-eight, Stockton and Greenwich Streets.
By July of 1917 twenty of the forty-eight engine companies in service had been motorized, but there were still two hundred and forty three horses in service in the Department. An appropriation of $100,000 at this time helped to speed the transition, and by August 1921, the Department was fully motorized with Engine Company No. 33 being the last to transition.
By 1916 the uniformed force numbered 815 men. In addition to forty-eight engine companies, the Department had thirteen trucks, twelve chemicals, two water towers and two fireboats in service.
It was also during this period that progressive action was taken to liberalize the firemen's hours. It is perhaps difficult today to realize that from 1866, firemen had to work twenty four hours a day, with only one day off in thirty. In 1902 and again in 1906 attempts to gain relief had failed.
In November of 1912, the two platoon system was on the ballot by referendum, but the people turned it down by over twelve thousand votes. Meanwhile, as years went on, firemen got one day off each week. In 1913, the firemen united and formed the David Scannell Club, and the proposition again went on the ballot in November of 1916. Its final passage was contributed to the efforts of the Scannell Club, and on August 15, 1918, the two platoon system went into effect.
The Department had consisted of two firefighting divisions since the early 1800's, but with the change in hours without appointment of additional Assistant Chiefs, the entire City was constituted as one division. It was not until November 1, 1926, that additional appointments made it possible to recreate a second division.
In 1915, the new Central Fire Alarm Station went into service at Turk and Octavia Streets. A Class "A" reinforced concrete building, located in a public park, its location helps make it immune from general conflagrations. With most equipment manufactured and installed by the Department of Electricity, and generous fire alarm box distribution throughout the city, the system still provides one of the swiftest and most dependable systems in the country.
The year 1915 was notable also for an enviable record compiled by the Department. This was the year of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which was conducted in the northern section of the city. Housed almost entirely in combustible structures, were treasures worth untold millions, yet the fire losses including the period of construction and dismantling were less than $250.00.
For several years, Chief Murphy had urged the formation of a Fire Prevention Bureau to inspect hazards and enforce statutes and ordinances relating to fire prevention, fire protection and fire-spread control. Finally, in June 1920, the Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety was established by ordinance. Due to insufficient funds to provide permanent personnel, the operation was not as effective as the Chief desired. Initially, operation was dependent on a continually changing inspection force of detailed members, and it was not until eight years later that sufficient budget appropriations could be realized to overcome this deficiency.
Under Chief Murphy's vigorous leadership, the Department had evolved into an efficient and modern Department well regarded throughout the country. However, in 1928, Chief Murphy's health deteriorated and after a prolonged illness, he passed away on November 4, 1929.
On November 9, 1929, Charles J. Brennan was appointed Chief Engineer, having served as acting chief intermittently since October of 1928.
He directed his first energies toward developing the Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety to a position of greater importance and responsibility. Through the combined efforts of the Chief and the Commission, an appropriation was obtained sufficient to give the Bureau seven permanent inspectors. An ordinance of June 1937 created the office of Chief of the Division of Fire Prevention and Investigation, combining the Bureau of Public Safety and the Fire Marshal's office under the direct supervision of this officer. This division, conceived by Chief Sullivan, given the necessary stimulus by Chief Brennan, and under the guidance of succeeding department heads has grown successfully to its present modern day efficiency.
In January 1932, a new city charter was enacted into law. By its provisions the membership of the Board of Fire Commissioners was reduced to three members, appointed by the Mayor to serve overlapping four year terms.
Under the revised retirement system the department members, for the first time, were required to contribute to the system. Greater length of employment was also required before being eligible for retirement. In all, the system was less desirable to the members than the one it replaced.
Chief Brennan was retained by the reorganized Commission, and reappointed effective January 15, 1932.
In July of the same year a survey was completed by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, showing the departmental organization at the time.
There were forty-seven engines, fifteen trucks, eleven chemicals, two fireboats, four water towers, a rescue squad, air compressor and two searchlight engines in service in fifty three stations.
Water towers three and four, added in 1927, and operable to a height of thirty feet, were particularly adapted to operate in narrow alleyways as they required no bracing or outriggers.
The two searchlight engines and the air compressor had been assembled at the Fire Department shops and put into service in 1929 and 1930's respectively.
One 85-foot American LaFrance aerial had been put in service in 1929, all other trucks were of city service type, those acquired since 1924 being built in the municipal shops to Fire Department specifications.
Also in service were eight hose wagons or tenders, all equipped with turret pipes. Of the forty-seven pumpers, only eighteen were of thousand gallon capacities. After 1926, all pumpers purchased were required to be of thousand gallon capacity.
The rescue squad originally was instituted in November, 1922 as a group of specialists equipped to handle elevator accidents and rescues of all types. Supplemented with Gibbs helmets, they were soon being used in the most difficult fire situations. In this they proved eminently successful, and quickly established an enviable reputation.
Total Department membership in March 1932 was 1217; the uniformed force consisting of 1184 men. The Department was organized into two divisions and eleven battalion districts.
The early years of Chief Brennan's term of office were paralleled by the economic depression that gripped the nation in the beginning of the thirties. This resulted naturally, in stringent budget and financial appropriations, which had the effect of curtailing any major Department plans for expansion, or even the orderly replacement of aging equipment.
The financial crisis grew so severe in 1932 that all department members agreed to a voluntary wage reduction in a hopeful effort to reduce the city's economic problems. It was during this same period, and attributable to the same depressed financial state, that officers were removed from chemical companies, the crew in the future consisting of two hosemen.
One of the few advances made by the Department in these lean years resulted from the formation of the Works Project Administration. As a result of this program several of the Department buildings were remodeled, new heating and plumbing facilities installed and much necessary maintenance accomplished.
Little else changed in the Department until the advent of the World's Fair of 1939-40 on Treasure Island. Charged with the fire protection responsibility of the entire installation on the man-made island, the Department established two complete stations at the fair site. The equipment situated on the island consisted of two engines, two trucks, two tank wagons, a fireboat and a hose tender all under the general jurisdiction of a Battalion Chief.
The duty proved popular with the members, and there was no problem keeping the stations staffed. The units remained for the duration of the fair and were successful in supplying adequate fire prevention and protection coverage.
About this same time, the old-style chemicals were being replaced with modern water tank units. These tank wagons, holding up to five-hundred gallons of water, and capable of pumping at 150 psi through two reels of hose were assembled at the city shops.
The old chemicals were equipped with two eighty gallon tanks charged with water, soda and acid. When activated, the formed carbon dioxide provided the necessary propellant for the water. They had not changed in principle since they were first placed in service in 1890. They had performed with great efficiency for nearly fifty years.
Shortly after this, Chief Brennan submitted a report to the Fire Commission recommending reorganization of the Department from two to three divisions. On October 29, 1941, the recommendation was approved by a unanimous vote of the Commission. With the necessary realignment of boundaries completed, the new headquarters for Division Three was established at 1458 Valencia Street, where it was quartered with Engine Company Thirteen.
The next change of any magnitude occurred in 1943 when the Underwriters Fire Patrol was absorbed into the Department. The Patrol had been established in San Francisco in the year 1875 by the major insurance companies serving the area. Its main purpose was to minimize damage as much as possible from fire and necessary firefighting operations.
It was eventually realized that this function was a necessary and major responsibility of the municipality toward its citizens. Therefore on July 1, 1943, the Patrol was absorbed into the Department under the title “Salvage Corps." The charter amendment that accomplished this change also contained provisions granting civil service tenure to, and allowing retention of, the members of the old patrol. Now composed of four units and equipped with all modern appliances, the salvage companies continue to perform outstanding service, maintaining the excellent reputation established by their predecessors.
In March of the same year, Chief Brennan retired on disability pension after almost fifteen years of capable service as the Chief Executive Officer of the Department.
His successor, Albert J. Sullivan was appointed Chief Engineer on the 17th of March, 1943 and was immediately confronted with the many problems created by World War II. Already two hundred and thirteen firemen were on military leave, and every month brought new vacancies. Temporary replacements employed to fill the gap required extensive training. The Fire Auxiliary Reserve, created by ordinance as an emergency supplement to the Fire Department, was attracting the membership of many public spirited citizens, and their training also became the Departments responsibility.
The rapidly expanding war born industrial installations brought their own problems of inspection, regulation, and protection. A result of this expansion was the creation of the Plant Protection Service. This department subdivision is dedicated to advising, planning, and developing all phases of preventive and protective measures applicable to industry and institutions.
Through these war years, in spite of the manpower shortage, the Department was successful in maintaining the highest level of protective service, not only to its own citizens, but also to the overburdened military installations in and around the City.
With the coming of peace however, Chief Sullivan had no time to rest on his laurels. The vacancies created through the war years had to be filled on a permanent basis and a comprehensive training program developed to handle the large number of new members.
In October of 1947 the classrooms of City College were pressed into service as a supplemental training center, allowing the training program to proceed at an accelerated pace. Chief Sullivan, realizing that the modern fireman needed much broader training than could be supplied at the Department Drill Tower, had by his progressive action initiated the San Francisco Fire Department "Fire College" concept of training. Today, this concept emphasizes class work as of equal importance as development of manipulative skills.
When Chief Sullivan retired in 1948, he could be satisfied that the Department was close to normal operating standards; manpower shortage was easing, and training was progressing on a higher level than ever before.
Chief Sullivan's successor, Edward P. Walsh was appointed on January 21, 1948, a busy year for the new Chief. A survey of the city's fire defenses was being conducted by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, always a critical period for a fire department. On May 7, 1948, the work week was reduced to 56 hours, beginning its problems of increased employments and budget requests. In August, the Department had finally placed its own two-way radio communications channel in service; until this time it had relied on use of joint facilities with the Police Department. On December 15, 1948 after many months of preparation, a new set of Rules and Regulations was approved and adopted by the Board of Fire Commissioners.
In the June election of 1948 an important charter amendment had been approved which was to become a boon for Chief Walsh and succeeding Department Heads. The rank of Deputy Chief had been created in an attempt to assist the Chief and relieve him of many important but subsidiary duties.
The first Deputy Chief, Alfred J. Galli, appointed on July 1, 1948, brought his customary vigor to the new job and quickly established the merit of the new position.
In February of 1949, the Department took a bold step when the determination was made to assume responsibility for fire protection at the International Airport seventeen miles south of the City. The initial complement consisted of a pumper, battery wagon, and a three-ton Cardox unit, all manned by one officer and three men. From this limited beginning the airport branch has steadily expanded, until at present the protection consists of two stations containing eight first line, and five reserve units. These units are staffed by a Fire Marshal, seven officers and thirty-four men. The Fire Marshal's aide also serves as Training Officer not only for department members but for airline and maintenance staff as well.
Through the years little had been done to the department stations other than routine maintenance. No new building had been erected in nearly two decades. In 1939 the Chamber of Commerce had sponsored an engineering survey of all city firehouses. The results, published in March 1940, warned of the inherent danger of the old buildings in the event of a severe earthquake. However, with the advent of the Second World War and its attendant austerity, corrective measures were deferred for several years.
A second engineering survey conducted in 1951 not only supported the findings of the earlier report but stressed the necessity for immediate remedial action. The survey completed in September 1951, recommended abandonment of fifty percent of all fire stations, and reconstruction of most of the remainder. This triggered a reaction which resulted in the successful passage of a Firehouse Bond Issue for $4,750,000 in November of 1952. In the ensuing years the Department embarked on its biggest building program since the days of destruction in 1906.
When Chief Walsh was forced to retire because of ill health in August 1953, the building program was well under way; three houses had been reconstructed and several new buildings were started.
Francis P. Kelly, Chief Walsh's successor, was appointed Chief of Department on August 21, 1953. He had served as Chief of the Division of Fire Prevention & Investigation since the position had been created by ordinance in 1937. Prior to that, he had held the office of Fire Marshal for ten years.
Although Chief Kelly served as Chief of Department for only three years, he made certain that the steady progress of the building program was maintained. Of the fifteen building projects completed during his tenure, the most important by far was the new combined Drill Tower and Fire College.
The old Drill Tower, located at Bryant and Division Streets, had served the Department well since its construction in 1923. For over a quarter of a century every new "Proby" had climbed its walls and slid on ropes from its roof top, as part of the extensive training program designed to develop the dexterity and confidence required of the San Francisco Fireman. However, on October 18, 1951, the old Tower tapped out of service for the last time, to make way for an approaching freeway complex.
The new Training Center, located at Folsom and 19th Streets, went into operation on November 30, 1954. Its facilities consisted of the Drill Tower, a seven story and basement structure completely equipped to provide the mechanics necessary for drilling in all operational and training procedures; a large yard area for training evolutions; and a one story Fire College building housing classrooms, library, photographic laboratory, and general offices. Staffed by a Director of Training and several competent officers, the training center continues to produce the quality of trained personnel which is in keeping with the recognized high standard of the San Francisco Fire Department.
During the same year another Department change had occurred, marking a break with the past. The old city-owned fireboats, "Dennis Sullivan" and "David Scannell", in service since 1909 and an important part of the waterfront fire defense, had been retired from service as a result of mounting repair and maintenance costs .
Their replacement, the diesel-powered "Phoenix'', owned by the State and manned and operated by the San Francisco Fire Department, has added to the protection of the dock area since May 1954. Efforts are still being made to provide a second boat to equal the protection afforded by the two old steamers.
Chief Kelly also continued the development of the radio installation program initiated in 1948. By June 1954, all eighteen trucks had been equipped with two-way radio and a year later in 1955, all salvage units and several outlying engine companies had been similarly equipped. The greater flexibility and control of these units clearly indicated the importance of full radio control of all Department apparatus.
During Chief Kelly's' last year in office, the most notable event was the change in working hours of the membership. In conformity with a charter revision, the Chief recommended for Commission approval, the division of the firefighting companies into three shifts, each to work twenty-four consecutive hours on duty. The recommendation was approved and the new system went into effect on March 12, 1956, establishing the basic work schedule which is still in effect today.
In the latter part of the year, Chief Kelly requested abridgment of his leave from his former position. Effective December 16, 1956, he was restored to his former rank of Chief of the Division of Fire Prevention and Investigation, retiring on April 1, 1957.
On December 16, 1956, the succeeding Chief of Department, William F. Murray was appointed to office by the Fire Commission. He in turn designated as his personal choice for Deputy Chief, Carl F. Kruger.
As the first months passed and significant changes took place, it became evident that the Department was progressing on a carefully planned schedule.
Initially, attention was directed toward revising and delegating administrative and staff activities into efficiently functioning divisions, capable of guiding and coordinating the developing program. This resulted eventually in the Specialized Auxiliary Service, comprising the Divisions of Training, Administration, Fire Prevention, and Special Services, each headed by an Assistant Chief.
The Division of Training was expanded to prepare for a departure from the traditional practice of placing new recruits directly into fire stations. On April 22, 1957, a class of new recruits started the first eight week probationary training program at the Fire College. This training program had to be completed satisfactorily before assignment to actual fire duty. This period of training has gradually been increased to twelve weeks. Successful completion of a final examination at the end of six months remains a prerequisite to permanent appointment.
A comprehensive training manual program was also developed to fill the lack of written training and procedure guides. This program, under the guidance of the Chief, culminated eventually into more than twenty manuals covering all phases of specialized knowledge considered necessary for efficient practices.
In September 1966, a new milestone related to training was achieved. The City College of San Francisco, in cooperation with the Fire Department, initiated a Fire Science Program offering courses in pre-employment and in-service training. Upon successful completion of the course, the student is awarded an Associated Arts degree.
The year 1958 marked the beginning of a sweeping program designed to replace all in-service dual pumpers and tank wagons with the new triple-combination pumper which consolidated the functions of both pieces in one unit. On August 20, 1958 on orders of Chief Murray the program began when Engine Company 6 was replaced with Triple Combination #1. By May of 1961 twenty of the new "triples" were in service and the last tank wagon had been inactivated. All S.F.F.D. pumpers acquired in 1963 and thereafter were required to have a minimum rated capacity of 1250 G.P.M. Replacement of the old City Service Trucks with modern aerials on a one-a-year basis had also been instituted as part of an overall planned program to fully equip the Department with triple pumpers and aerial ladder trucks by the fiscal year 1968-69.
Modernization of the Rescue Squads, Salvage Companies, Foam, and other specialized units have been accomplished by use of the newer apparatus released by the triple combination conversion project.
A program to equip all apparatus with self-contained breathing equipment had its inception during the first month of Chief Murray's tenure. A severe fire on New Year's Eve of 1956 felled over one hundred firemen from smoke and toxic gases before control could be established. Immediately thereafter the Chief pushed through an emergency appropriation for seventy-five units of self-contained breathing equipment.
To maintain and supply the new equipment, a special apparatus called the Service Squad was designed and put into operation on April 6, 1957. By the end of 1965 over two hundred and twenty-five of the self contained units were in service, and all of the old style filter masks had been removed from the apparatus.
The Division of Administration, created on July 1, 1961 by Chief Murray was designed to receive, review, and process all relevant Department business. Routine matters are usually resolved at this level, those of more importance being reserved for the attention of the Chief or Deputy Chief.
A great part of the work load of the Division of Administration is channeled through the Bureau of Assignments and Communications, a supporting unit which executes all matters relating to personnel, dispatching, communications, and information services.
Two major changes have been instrumental in bringing the Bureau of Assignments to the high level of efficiency at which it operates today.
The first, occurring November 7, 1962, was the assumption of responsibility by experienced Fire Department officers for receiving fire calls and controlling all emergency dispatching. This has resolved the conflict caused by the former practice of Department of Electricity members handling this function. The second event was the completion of installation of two-way radio on all first line Fire Department equipment. Under the guidance of a Communications Committee appointed by Chief Murray, the existing radio equipment had been surveyed and a decision made to install a wider range, multi-channel system. This program, started in 1958 and finally completed in May, 1963, allows the Department to function with much greater speed and flexibility both in routine activities and emergency response.
With radio control finally achieved it was possible to institute the successful Fire Safety Survey Program. This program is an ambitious plan to have department members visit all dwellings in the City in an attempt to eliminate common fire hazards, and reduce fire and life loss.
The Division of Special Services was created on May 13, 1958, and administers the department building program for construction, repair, and maintenance. Other functions of this division are department wide research and planning, and the supervision of the Bureau of Engineering and Water Supply.
Under the 1952 bond issue, fifteen new stations were built and eleven were reconditioned. Since then two new stations were completed out of tax funds, but several structures still remained in need of rehabilitation.
This led to the bond issue for $489,000,000 recommended by Chief Murray and approved by the Board of Fire Commissioners. The issue was successfully passed in the November election of 1964. The issue provided funds for a new headquarters building, six new fire stations, and the reconstruction of eight existing stations. With this program completed, virtually all Fire Department buildings will be of modern design with attendant lower repair and maintenance costs.
On January 10, 1966, ground breaking ceremonies were conducted at 260 Golden Gate Avenue for the new San Francisco Fire Department Headquarters. The completion and dedication of the building on April 18, 1967 was a long awaited event and finally released the Department from its fifty year occupancy in the basement of City Hall.
The Division of Fire Prevention and Investigation, vastly expanded both in size and volume of business since its inception in 1920, performs a role of tremendous importance in continuing vigilance of all matters affecting the fire safety of the local populace. Charged with application of State and local codes concerning residential, institutional, and industrial occupancies, thousands of inspections are performed each year by the Division to insure compliance with appropriate laws.
The problem of enforcement has been clarified by the adoption of a new Fire Code on February 1, 1965. The new code, prepared by personnel of the Division, recognizes modern practice and design, and contains appropriate legislation for revision, thus maintaining necessary flexibility.
A charter amendment in 1963 properly placed the Chief of Department in jurisdiction over the Division of Fire Prevention. This amendment finally established the proper formation of the Specialized Auxiliary Service, thereby insuring orderly transaction of Departmental administrative functions.
In May of 1958, new Rules and Regulations, supplemented by a Procedure Guide, re-established Department policy, operational orders, and recommended practices. Disaster operation plans were created developing guidelines for action in the event of disaster from either natural causes or enemy action. Once established, these written statements of practices and policy have not remained static, but are under constant scrutiny for necessary revision. At the present time the Rules and Regulations and the Procedure Guide, have again been rewritten to keep abreast of the changes and progress accomplished within the Department under Chief Murray's tenure.
Communications and Safety Committees, established as part of the concept of delegated administrative duties, pursue new developments and practices for possible department adoption. An Advisory Board reviews, reports and recommends on improvements suggested by department members. Department policy is directed towards keeping members fully informed of all related matters, and encouraging participation in achieving departmental aims.
The Department suffered a deep loss upon the death in February 1964, of Deputy Chief Carl F. Kruger. He had been an integral part, and the key executive of Chief Murray's administrative program. A man of quiet efficiency both in field and office practices, he was beloved by his subordinates, one and all.
The appointment on March 10, 1964, of William P. Lindecker to Deputy Chief brought a continuation of established department efficiency. The first Director of Administration, he had contributed greatly to the re-organization of the Department and has proven essential to current and projected planning.
In the latter part of 1965, the American Insurance Association conducted a regarding survey of the City and County and the Fire Department, in relation to national fire insurance standards.
Two new truck companies had been put into service to protect newly built areas; Truck Company 19, on April 1, 1958, and Truck Company 20, on October 16, 1963. With pumper strength stabilized at forty-seven Engine Companies and two new high expansion foam units activated in October 1965, the Department faced the survey with justifiable confidence.
As a result of the survey which was completed in February 1966, both the City and the Fire Department retained their previous rating of Class 2. The only impediment preventing the Fire Department from attaining the desirable Class 1 rating was the lack of an additional fireboat, a deficiency that Chief Murray has pledged every effort to overcome.
In October 1964, the San Francisco Fire Department Pioneer Memorial Museum, located at 655 Presidio Avenue, was formally dedicated and opened to the public. Planned by Chief Murray, the late Deputy Chief Carl F. Kruger and Captain Louis Hage, the Museum is a memorial to the firefighting efforts of the past generations of the Department, dating back to the early pioneers. A trip through the Museum brings an awareness of the deep tradition that has played such an important part throughout the history of the Department.
No one is more aware of this tradition and its importance than the present Chief, William F. Murray. Son of a Captain of the San Francisco Fire Department, Chief Murray's intimate knowledge of the Department and its men stems from his earliest childhood days, and forms the basis of the broad fund of knowledge he brought to the position of Chief of Department.
The San Francisco Fire Department was privileged in September, 1967 to have the 94th Annual Conference of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. This conference is held annually in a major city and brings together Fire Chiefs and Associate members from the United States, Canada, and from foreign countries throughout the world. They assemble to exchange ideas, to gather information, and to discuss common problems. It is one of the oldest Safety and Educational Conferences of its kind, and has been held continually since 1893.
During the conference, the San Francisco Fire Department sponsored the First Annual Exhibit of Art. The exhibit included forty-five displays of art categories including paintings of all media.
Under authorization of the 1964 Bond Issue, reconstruction of the quarters of Engine Co. #28, 1814 Stockton Street, was completed on July 7, 1967. Under the same authorization, construction of a new company station, located at 80 Digby Street, was completed on January 22, 1968. Engine Company No. 7 was assigned to this new station, effective March 12, 1968; its former quarters, located at 3160 - 16th Street, has been deactivated, pending determination as future use or disposal by sale.
On August 1, 1968, Deputy Chief William Lindecker retired; Assistant Chief Keith P. Calden of Division 1 was appointed Deputy Chief. Chief Caldenhad been Acting Deputy Chief from April 2, 1968.
A Charter Amendment was passed by the Electorate lowering the traditional age limits for applicants entering the Fire Department from 21 to 35 years to the lower age limits of 20 to 32 years with applicants being able to take the entrance examination at 19 years of age.
Due to the ever increasing number of fire responses, the Department is experiencing an adequate yet curtailed response of apparatus that has been made a part of the dispatching procedure on designated box alarms. In order to receive this curtailed response, Fire Alarm boxes that are struck are preceded by a code signal 2-1.
In February, 1969, a new unit was added to the Fire Department being Communications Unit one and assigned the Joker code signal 3-2. It is completely equipped for command past operations at greater alarms of fire. A designated area response to 2nd alarms and city wide response to 3rd or greater alarms has been put into effect.
During 1969, Goge-Bobcack & Associates, Inc. conducted a survey and study of the fire defenses of San Francisco and submitted their recommendations to the Department in November. The primary purpose of the study come as a result of decreasing the work week of fire fighting personnel in conjunction with maintaining the adequacy of fire defenses at their present level of effectiveness without offsetting costs from other sources. The Department has considered a number of the recommendations for adoption. However, in regards to the deletion of specific companies and station location, the Department must consider the requirements of the AIA standards including its grading schedule.
In 1969 the Fire League of Athletic and Musical Events program popularly known as F.L.A.M.E. was organized by Deputy Chief Keith P. Calden in order to provide a common meeting ground for firefighters and the youth of San Francisco. The emphasis of the program is in the teaching and training of sports, supervised athletic competition and cultural development in order to develop the principles of sportsmanship, good will, and friendship.
By Ordinance 40-70, the Board of Supervisors provided for the City to supply members of the Department with all prescribed uniforms and pertinent safety equipment commencing July 1, 1970. After initial issue, replacement is provided on the basis of need.
Year end statistics reveal, for the first time since the mid sixties, a decrease of 8.6% in the number of fire responses. Also for the first time, the number of false alarms dropped by 11.7%. This downward trend may well be attributed to the efforts of the Fire Prevention Bureau, the F.L.A.M.E. program for juveniles, and the impact of the "2-1 Signal" whereby the response to certain boxes was curtailed.
After 50 years of illustrious service, Chief William F. Murray retired as Chief of Department on January 4, 1971, after serving over 14 years in that capacity.
On January 4, 1971, the Fire Commission appointed former Deputy Chief Keith P. Calden to succeed Chief Murray as Chief of Department. Chief Calden appointed Clarence G. Rosenstock to the position of Deputy Chief effective the same date.
In July of 1971, the work week of the fire-fighting forces was reduced to 48.7 hours. This culminated a 4 year reduction plan from 52 hour work week existent in 1968. To provide for the necessary personnel redeployments, and in concert with recommendations of the survey firm of Gage, Babcock & Associates, who were engaged by the Fire Commission, the deactivation of Battalion 11, Engine Companies 2, 9, and 16, and Salvage Co. 3 was taken at the same time.
Shortly after his appointment as Chief of Department, Chief Calden initiated numerous innovative programs in order to maintain the Departments' splendid fire record, and to increase the "professionalism" stature of the firefighter, which is an absolute necessity in today's large metropolitan fire departments. The present day trend to complex high-rise structures bring new problems to the fire service; in recognition of this, Chief Calden has pioneered a sweeping program that serves as a model for all communities. It began with the institution of a new concept of a "life safety system" which has been incorporated into the Building and Fire Codes which will, among others, give notification of fire, isolation of the area, safety for occupants, ventilation control, full communications throughout the structure, elevator security and control, and immediate suppression steps through full sprinklerization of the building. A pre-fire planning program incorporates inspection and plan development jointly between the District Chief, the Bureau of Fire Prevention Inspector, and building management. The occupants are then notified of this operations plan and their role in it.
In 1971, Chief Calden instituted a physical fitness and weight control program for members of the Department. Since fire fighting is the most hazardous civilian occupation in America, it remains that if the firefighter has not maintained his body in the same manner that he has maintained his equipment, he greatly increases his chances of Injury. It is the Chiefs' firm belief that by accepting the physical fitness recommendations, the firefighter will live a healthier and happier life.
In July, 1971, the Assignment Office was moved from Central Fire Alarm Office to Headquarters for improved personnel administration.
In October, 1971, the night drill session program at the Division of Training was augmented, supplementing daytime drills. Fire Companies are now subjected to a more comprehensive training program enabling the individual firefighter to achieve a higher degree of effectiveness in fire suppression and in protecting himself from dangerous life-threatening situations.
In November, 1971, an $ 8,491,000 Bond Issue to improve fire protection systems and acquire equipment was approved by the electorate. The goals of this Bond Issue were to overcome then-existing deficiencies in the areas of Water Supply, Fire Fighting Equipment, and Communications to ensure that the City not be lowered to a Class III rating with its attendant higher insurance costs.
A standard-setting computerized Command and Control System has been engineered and is being assembled and tested at the time of this report. This system will completely revamp and modernize the current alarm receipt and dispatch methods and alter the manner of unit control for all fire fighting units. This so-termed "Silent System” and electronic data processing equipment will give instantaneous information to Controllers at Central Fire Alarm Office for relay to fire fighters in the field. Modifications to Central Fire Alarm Office are being made to accommodate the new equipment; new wires to the various stations are also being installed. The prognosis for initial operation of the new system has been pointed to December, 1975.
Fire fighting apparatus was purchased through means of this Bond Issue to bring the departmental inventory to the desired level and procedure was established with the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to establish a replacement program based on a cycle of 15 years for first line pumpers, and 20 years for Trucks, with a 5 year service as relief equipment.
Improvements to both the High Pressure System and the Domestic System are being made, including the conversion of the two High Pressure System pumping stations to diesel operation. Recommendations of the Insurance Service Offices were used as guidelines in determining those areas most in need of improvement of water supply.
In 1972 the switch to National Standard Thread brought all San Francisco Fire Department hose couplings in line with the recommended standardization. At this time the department also changed to the new light weight couplings for all new hose. The pin type lug couplings are being replaced by the rocker type coupling and hose tower hangars are being altered to accommodate this new coupling.
In April, 1972, the Fire Safety Technician Program was completed under the sponsorship of the Federal Government and the twenty-one men successfully passing the required examinations were appointed to permanent positions in the Department.
A Charter change was approved by the voters in the June, 1972, election increasing the probationary period for new members to one year.
A change in the uniform regulations was introduced with the replacement of the dark blue caps with white caps for Chief Officers and Captains.
July 1, 1972 brought the re-introduction of the rank of Secretary to the Chief. Battalion Chief Andrew C. Casper was appointed to this re-classification. On this same date, the Airport Fire Marshal position was upgraded from Captain to Assistant Chief, the Captain being placed in charge of Company Operations. Robert E. Clancy became the first Assistant Chief to be placed in charge of the Division of Airports.
At the beginning of fiscal year 1972-73, Deputy Chief Clarence G. Rosenstock retired effective July 12, 1972, after 40 years of outstanding service both as an administrator and as a firefighter. Assistant Chief Joseph P. Daly of the Division of Administration was named as his successor by Chief of Department, Keith P. Calden.
Deputy Chief Daly received his appointment from Chief Calden on July 10, 1972. At his ceremony for the first time in the history of the Fire Department, the retiring Deputy Chief pinned his badge on the man succeeding him.
In January, 1973, the voluntary program for physical fitness and weight control became mandatory; company officers conduct exercise - classes daily for their units and each Battalion district has been supplied with a set of exercise weights which are also used for the periodic testing of the members.
In May, 1973, the newly reconstructed Station 14 was dedicated. This station at 551 - 26th Avenue (formerly Engine 36) has been expanded by the acquisition of the adjoining property.
A program was instituted in 1973 and completed in 1974 to renumber the fire stations to an orderly pattern. Unused Engine numbers were assigned to those Engines numbered 45 and above. Where Engine and Truck Companies were quartered together the Engine number was changed to match the Truck number. We now have Engines One through Forty-four plus the Fireboat.
In June, 1973, the Bureau of Fire Prevention, under the direction of Chief Emmet Condon, made an in-depth survey of the waterfront in a joint effort with the Port Commission to alleviate the growing fire hazard presented by old and unprotected piers. As a result of this survey, recommendations were made, and steps are being taken to raze some piers and to sprinkler equip others.
On July 1, 1973, the Airport Division was bolstered by the addition of two Captains and a Fire Inspector; this provided a Captain for each shift and brought a qualified Inspector to rule on the increasing fire protection problems.
At the same time, in Chief Caldens' program to upgrade the Bureau of Fire Prevention to a higher classification and erase I.S.O. deficiency points, new employments were authorized. They included one Lieutenant, three Inspectors, and a Fire Protection Engineer.
In December of 1973, as a result of the passage of the November 1971 Bond Issue, the Department accepted delivery of thirteen 1250 G.P.M. pumpers from Ward LaFrance, four 100 foot aerials from Seagrave, four mini-pumpers from Ford, and one cliff rescue truck-this being the largest single delivery acceptance in the history of the San Francisco Fire Department.
Continuing with his pattern of maintaining the traditions of the San Francisco Fire Department, and to specifically honor the memory of those fire fighters who laid down their lives in the service of the City, Chief Calden formed a committee to design a commemorative plaque to be installed in the foyer of Headquarters building. The noted architect, Mr. Ernest Born, assisted in the design preparation and supervised its fabrication by the Vermont Marble Company. The plaque was dedicated on January 21, 1974 at ceremonies presided over by Mayor Alioto; this plaque lists the names of every man of the Department who died in the line of duty.
On February 4, 1974, Engine 9 and Truck 9 moved into their new quarters at the site of the departments' pipe yard at 2245 Jerrold Avenue; Battalion District No. 10 was transferred to this new station from their former tenancy at Engine 42.
On May 11, 1974, Engine Co. 33 moved into their new station at #8 Capitol Avenue. This one story structure is a new concept in fire stations for San Francisco reflecting the efforts to reconcile building costs with the increase in company manning brought about by shorter working hours. A feature of this new facility is a separate hose storage building capable of storing over 20,000 feet of large hose to replace the unprotected hose racks at Engines 25 and 30.
On March 11, 1974, Engine 3 and Truck 3 vacated their quarters at 1067 Post Street to permit the razing of the old building and reconstruction on site.
Spring of 1974 saw the completion of negotiations with the Embarcadero Center Corporation for their purchase of the Drumm Street quarters of Engine 13, Truck 13, and Division One, in return for which a new station of comparable size and refinements will be built at the southeast corner of Sansome and Washington Streets.
In February, 1974, a new Division was created in the Fire Department to handle the mounting demands on the Department. It has been titled, "The Division of Public Education and Internal Affairs," and Assistant Chief Frank Sangiacomo was appointed to direct it. The Division is charged, among other duties, with Public Information, the F.L.A.M.E. program, Community Relations, liaison with Community College for training and the Fire Science Courses, and such assignments as directed by the Chief of Department.