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Petaluma Fire Department History

The fire department has gone through many changes since its beginning back in 1857. Learn about both our history and our present.

 

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Our Department: Then

Fire departments and firefighters have become such a part of our lives that we forget times in the past when there were none. The pioneers in our community were worried about this. To them, such protection was of prime importance. A single spark could, and often did, cause a blaze that could wipe out a lifetime of work and many lives. Many people stood helplessly watching their homes or businesses burn to the ground. Insurance was available, but so costly that only a few could afford full protection.

Whenever towns were built, the most responsible citizens led the way to better fire protection. Groups of men* volunteered to be on guard against the common enemy. (*In the late 1800's, only men filled the positions of firefighters. It wasn't until the late 1970's that women began entering the work force as full-time firefighters.) Without the benefit of modern training, techniques, and without adequate equipment, protecting Petaluma from fire involved hardships that are difficult to visualize.

There were no building codes and no hazard awareness programs. Water supplies were often distant or meager. The use of coal and wood as fuel exposed every home to daily danger. The firemen of centuries past had no easy task.

With the advent of full-time firefighters came a more efficient, but no less vital organization. The primary purpose of fire organizations is to prevent loss of lives and property. The job today is far more diverse and training includes a great deal more than just putting out fires.

Many of us think of a firefighter as a person who slides down a pole at the sound of a bell, races to a fire, saturates everything with water until the fire is out, thus ending the job. That image has been perpetuated in the books read to us as children. As with many such books, the hard facts are left out. Modern firefighting techniques are a result of much scientific knowledge.

Fire! Fire! Fire! Within seconds the sound of running feet and clanging buckets snatched from their hooks responded to the terrifying cries of alarm. The June 5, 1857, a fire broke out at Washington and Kentucky Streets. This fire threatened the entire business portion of the town. Citizens were able to extinguish this fire by forming a bucket line from the river to the fire site, a distance of over a block. The worse fire known yet to the people of Petaluma raged out of control.

The organization of a fire company took place that night. Officers were elected, a code of bylaws was established, and a means of fund raising was decided upon. Petaluma Engine Company #1 was formed.

1850-1900

In the early 1850’s, Petaluma, California was developing into a thriving community. The Gold Rush and Petaluma's location, at the end of a navigable waterway, were key to a thriving economy. As with all new communities at this time, the buildings were constructed of wood with little to no space between structures. Fires were prevalent and there was no organized fire protection available.

On June 5, 1857, a fire started at Washington and Kentucky Streets. This fire threatened the entire business portion of the town. Citizens were able to extinguish this fire by forming a bucket line from the river to the fire site, a distance of over a block.

The organization of a fire company took place that night. Officers were elected, a code of bylaws was established, and a means of fund raising was decided upon.

Petaluma Engine Company #1 was formed.

On June 13, 1857, a poetry reading was held at the town's Music Hall. A Mrs. Conner read “Hiawatha."  A little less than $200 was made and this money was used as a down payment on a fire pumper.

On July 2, 1857, a committee headed by a Mr. Weston went to San Francisco and returned with a hand pumper that was used at the Knickerbocker Engine Company Number 5 station of the San Francisco Fire Department. The engine was purchased for $1,500.00, with the balance due in ninety days.

November 20, 1857 Hook and Ladder Company Number 1 was formed with fourteen charter members. This company was housed in a station on English Street (now Western) near Keller Street. One of the members, William Ordway, was a blacksmith and carriage maker. He built the first ladder truck. It served Petaluma until 1886, when an up-to-date Hayes ladder truck was purchased. The Hook and Ladder Company's motto was, “WE DESTROY TO SAVE!"

1858 The City of Petaluma was incorporated. One of the first acts of the City leaders was to build two 20,000-gallon water cisterns: one at Kentucky and English Streets, the other at Kentucky and Washington Streets.

1859 The Petaluma Fire Department was organized. The Department consisted of two companies: Petaluma Engine Company Number 1 and Petaluma Hook and Ladder Company Number 1. The City, only one year old, now took over some of the expenses of the Department and paid the Department's Volunteers Poll Tax. The Chief Engineer was George Walker and Petaluma had a population of 1,338.

The Sonoma Engine Company Number 2 was organized on June 1, 1864, with twenty-five men. That first month, they fought a large fire at Cohn’s store on Main Street above Washington Street. The store was said to contain forty kegs of gun powder. A Hunneman hand pumper from Boston arrived in February of 1865.

April 3, 1868 saw the organization of Young America Engine Company Number 3. The company’s engine was probably obtained from San Francisco’s “Young American Engine Company 13".

March of 1875 Sonoma Engine Company Number 2 was disbanded and the Alert Hose Company Number 2 was formed with thirty members.

1875 A high-pressure hydrant system was installed in Petaluma. This allowed fire companies to hook their hoses directly to the hydrants, eliminating the need for a pumper. Engine companies soon became hose companies and some companies were disbanded.

1880 The Petaluma Fire Department consisted of:

3
4
1
200
2,700
4
15

Engine Companies
Hose Reels
Hook and Ladder Company
Personnel
Feet of Hose
Cisterns
Hydrants with piped water of 150 feet of elevation

1892 The Tiger Hose Company Number 2 formed with fifteen members and by 1892 it was known as the East Petaluma Hose Company Number 2.

1901-1925

April 17,1906 Earthquake! Petaluma sent its Firefighters and citizenry to Santa Rosa by rail. The train trip took a record fourteen minutes.

In 1907 the City bought a hose wagon, a quick-hitch harness, and Black Bart, a blaze-faced gelding, seven years of age. They retained James Mott as his driver. Mott had volunteered for the department earlier that same year.

1909 The City of Petaluma formed a paid Fire Department. The first man hired was James Mott, Black Bart's capable driver. William Zartman was Chief and Robert Adams was Assistant Chief. James Mott was the only full-time firefighter.

1911 The Board of Fire Commissioners passed new ordinances. James Mott was rehired as a hose-wagon driver, Robert Adams as Chief, Frank Meyers as Assistant Chief, and Marcus Flohr as Captain of the paid men.

1912 Petaluma Fire Department consisted of:

Engine Company No. 1
Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1
Hose Company No. 2
Hose Company No. 3
Total

 

42 men
40 men
25 men
25 men
132 men
And incurred the following expenses for the year:
Care and feed of horse; oats, etc.
Allowance for Companies
Lights
Poll Taxes
Hauling (of apparatus to fires)
Salaries of paid men
Incidentals
5 new alarm boxes
New hose needed (1000 feet)
Repairs and supplies

Total for the year
$170
480
75
300
100
310
465
500
1,000
100

$3,500

October 1, 1912 the new Nott engine arrived. This was the first gasoline powered triple combination pumper to be placed into service in Petaluma. This engine had a 500 gpm pump, carried up to 1,200' of 2 ½" hose, and had a chemical tank of 30 gallons capacity.

When the engine was tested, the department’s old hose could not stand up to the high pressure and burst during a demonstration, dampening several City Council Members. An emergency meeting was called and new hose was ordered.

October 20, 1912 With the new Nott out of service for repairs, Black Bart bolted to service with driver Mott to a car fire at Misner's Garage. A violent explosion tore the car apart and sent a sheet of gasoline flames into the crowd. The force of the blast was taken directly by James Mott. Five firemen, seventeen civilians, and four children were burned seriously enough to be hospitalized. James Mott lived for forty-eight hours after the explosion; during this time he gave instructions for the care of his beloved horse Black Bart.

October 23, 1912. No bells tolled, no dirges played to prevent the wounded from knowing one of them had passed on. The procession went in silence to Cypress Hill Cemetery. Father Francis Fletcher of St. Vincent's conducted the graveside services at the Firemen's Plot. The hose wagon piled high with floral arrangements was pulled by Black Bart behind the hearse. Mott's helmet and coat were hung beside the empty seat.

The Fireman's Accident Fund paid $559.91 in hospital fees and doctor bills.

June 1913 The department consisted of Tony Peters and Floyd Drake as full-time men, six call-men, a Captain of the call-men, Marcus Flohr, Chief William Zartman and Assistant Chief Robert Adams.

Salaries were as follows:
Chief: $20.80 per month
Assistant Chief: $8.70 per month
Engineer: $9.00 per month
Assistant Engineer: $8.50 per month
Call-men: $2.00 per fire

June 30, 1913 marked the end of volunteer firefighting. The Board of Fire Commissioners resolved, "to take the necessary steps for mustering out of service the volunteer companies of the Petaluma Fire Department, and the conversion of same into an Exempt Association." The sale of existing equipment was to support the changes. "The Council complies with this request, the volunteer firefighters of this City will ever be ready at all times to respond to the call for assistance, and the memory of its numerous splendid deeds will live as long as the City stands, and with the reminder that we also will be mustered out with the others; further believing that it is not mens' work to drag the apparatus through the streets of the City in this era of progress and that the City should provide modern equipment and a modern trained force of firefighters."

March 22, 1914 3:40 A.M. The steamer Petaluma was destroyed by fire at the Gold dock at the foot of Copeland Street. The lost cargo included fifty cases of shoes, one case of manufactured silk, two carloads of tanned leather, 200 cases of eggs, a large two-horse express wagon, ninety cans of cream, 300 sacks of sawdust, and two new Corliss gas engines. The cause of the fire was undetermined.

September 1914The City purchased a $4,500.00 engine from the White Motor Manufacturing Company. It was lighter and easier to drive than the old Nott.

1915 Black Bart was sold for $70.00 to Peter Bruhn, a local farmer.

September 1915 The City voted a raise in pay. Full-time Ben Benoit and Floyd Drake would receive $100.00 a month. The fourteen call men and Captain Ed Conniff would receive $2.50 for day alarms and $3.50 for night alarms. One dollar would be paid to for non-working fires where no hose was laid. The City purchased a Hayes hook and ladder truck for $300.00 and fitted it to be pulled behind one of the auto engines.

August 17, 1917 The Gem Theater (the Wickersham Building) on the east side of Main Street (Petaluma Blvd) suffered a great deal of damage in a fire. The Neilson Furniture store on the ground floor and the Gem Theater upstairs were both heavily damaged by the fire, smoke and water.

June 1918 The Board of Fire Commissioners ruled that all firefighters, paid and call men, must report to Dr. Gossage for a physical exam.

November 1919 Firefighters asked for a raise. It was granted and call men began receiving $5.00 a month in addition to the pay schedule of 1915.  The Assistant Chief was paid $15.00 a month plus the rates for call men; the Captain would receive $7.50 a month plus call men rates. The Chief, who was making $50.00 a month, did not get a raise.

November 8, 1920 Just after midnight, Purser Lindgren woke Captain Bell. There was a smell of smoke and soon flames erupted on board the steamer Gold. The alarm box was two blocks away at Washington and Hopper Streets, so the fire was called in. If the alarm had been pulled, the "tappers" would have sounded in each call firefighter's home. This would have allowed Chief Adams to have the help he needed faster. Fireman Drake eventually pulled the alarm. The oil tanks on board exploded, a southeast wind pinned the Gold to the dock, and the fire spread to a fifteen-car freight train and eight cars were destroyed. The warehouse also went up in flames. The Boy Scouts held back the crowd of onlookers. After twelve hours, the Gold had burned to the water line, the cargo was a total loss, a mess boy had lost his life, the dock, the eight train cars, and the freight sheds were destroyed. The Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway Company, which owned the Gold, covered the losses. Donations to the Fire Department helped pay the volunteers an extra $5.00 each for their valiant efforts.

January 19, 1924 Golden Eagle Mills had a fire in one of its grain elevators on Washington Street. The Fire Department kept the damage to a minimum, even though it took two days to extinguish the fire completely. The loss was approximately $50,000.00. In 1884, the mill's predecessor burned to the ground.

1924 The City Council approved funds to purchase a new pumper and hook and ladder truck, as well as an auxiliary hose wagon and new hydrants and $1,500.00 worth of new hose. A La France Pumper, an International hose and chemical truck and an International hook and ladder truck were now in the department. Firefighters got a raise to $135.00 a month, then $142.50 and finally $150.00 a month and were given one day a week off. Those with more than one year of service to the department, they also qualified for a two-week vacation with pay.

November 27, 1925 The McNear warehouse at First Street between 'F' and 'G' Streets was destroyed by fire. Twelve tons of hay was in the 50' by 220' building. It took several days with the crew standing by to make sure the blaze was quenched.

 

1926-1950

January 9, 1927 The 1858 warehouse of the Golden Eagle Mill went up in flames. Hay, grain, corn, and copra fueled the blaze. It was seen for many miles. There were so many gawkers, the Fire Department had trouble laying the hose and keeping autos from driving over hose they had laid.

May 1927 The Tannery, an older wooden structure, could not be saved. The four-story building made a good bonfire itself, but the hides, tallow, paraffin and fish oils stored within made an intense blaze that doomed the structure. The Fire Department kept the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings.

May 31, 1928 Three thousand chickens and 300 cases of eggs were destroyed in a fire at the Stewart and Murry Packing Plant at the rear of 262 Main Street.

June 18, 1928 The Pacific Duck Ranch outside the City called in an alarm. The damage was minor but the firefighters enjoyed a fine duck dinner, and $35.00 was donated to the Fireman's Welfare Fund.

In late 1927 the Fire Department purchased its first asbestos suits and in 1928 it obtained gas masks.

June 29, 1933 The Sales Hatchery at Third and 'I' Streets was ablaze when the Fire Department arrived on the scene. They protected surrounding homes that had tall, dry grass behind them. The citizens, using their garden hoses, lowered the pressure from the already low hydrant, so the engine pumped from the river. Chief Adams and Assistant Meyers were rescued from the roof. The PG & E transformers caught fire and  William Cuslidge climbed up the pole and used an extinguisher to put out the flames.

March 24, 1936 At his home, 2 Keller Street, Fire Chief Adams passed away from a heart attack. The City mourned his passing. Mrs. Adams passed the gold badge onto Ben Benoit as he was sworn in as Chief on August 1, 1936. The office would now be a full-time job.

July 23, 1938 Planning for a new firehouse had begun in 1923. Architect Brainard Jones designed the building, and in 1925 George McNear donated the lot at Second and 'D' Streets. In 1938 the $45,000.00  firehouse was finally erected; $18,180.00 of the funds came from a P.W.A. grant and the balance came from a bond issue. The department also purchased two American La France 750-gallon pumpers, and improved the sewage system with the balance of the bond money.

June 1939 ARSON at the American Poultry Company! A week earlier the two guard dogs were poisoned and an unsuccessful attempt was made to burn the building. Now the building at 262 Main Street was gone after the second attempt was successful, a $75,000.00 loss.

1942 At the beginning of World War II, The City of Petaluma purchased a private ambulance company from the Marion family on Kentucky Street; a 1938 Chrysler Ambulance was part of the deal. The Police and Fire Departments each supplied manpower to staff the unit. The thirty-year-old Nott engine was dismantled and sold for scrap for the war effort.

June 1942 In the Sweed building, the Schindler Bakery and Rex Hardware Company were consumed by fire. Ernest Hobbie, head of Rex Hardware, had started a fire in his office stove as he was at work on a Sunday morning. When he returned to the room a few minutes later, it was ablaze. Dan Nielsen, who was wearing a gas mask, rescued Hobbie. Eight streams of water from five pieces of equipment doused the flames, but the building was a total loss. Due to wartime restrictions, the building was not rebuilt. Rex resettled in their warehouse across 'B' Street.

January 9, 1943 127 Keller, the Stone Furniture Building, burned late in the afternoon. Soldiers stationed at Kenilworth Park helped fight the fire.

November 15, 1943 RIOT CONTROL! Santa Rosa 33, Petaluma 0. Angry words, a wrecked car, and a stream of cold water brought the students, mainly girls, under control.

In September of 1944 the Petaluma Fire Department was called to Santa Rosa to help extinguish a $200,000.00 blaze at Law's Lumber Company. Mutual Aid agreement had been existence for twenty years and this was the first time it was put to use.

1947 The voters reorganized City government through a new City Charter. The Board of Fire Commissioners ceased and the Petaluma Fire Department was placed in the hands of the City Council.

December 31, 1950 saw the retirement of Chief Lucien (Ben) Benoit.

 

1951-1975

January 1, 1951 Don Nielsen was sworn in as Fire Chief.

Citizens on the East side of Petaluma had felt a lack of fire protection, especially when the drawbridge was up. A $35,000.00 firehouse was dedicated on October 7, 1952. Station 2 had a new Van Pelt 1,250-gallon pumper; another was purchased for headquarters.

1954 Under Mrs. Grace Vallier, a Women's Auxiliary Fire Service was formed to help free the firemen for fighting fires. Women were trained to handle radios, operate the siren system and do some administrative work. They were also trained in use of extinguishers, first aid and home safety.

December 31, 1955 Chief Don Nielsen retired.

January 1, 1956 James (Slim) Eaglin sworn in as Fire Chief.

June 27, 1956 Retired Fire Chief Don Nielsen passed away.

June 1956 A $34,340.00 American La France aerial ladder truck was delivered to the City. The old ladder truck was sold for $500.00. While Fireman Dan Turner was driving the old rig on Highway 101, just three miles south of Novato, there was a colossal roar and the engine split in half. Turner was not injured. The rig was then resold for $300.00, "AS IS."

August 5, 1957 A fire began in the balcony of the then California Theater (now the Phoenix), originally built in 1896 as the Hill Opera House, then as a movie house in 1925. The building burned between the roof and the false ceiling. Six pieces of equipment, 4,000 feet of hose and 260,000 gallons of water brought the fire under control in about seven hours. The new aerial was highly praised.

April 13, 1958 An alarm came in at 9:47, but because the Bundesen Hatchery was one block outside the City limits, the Petaluma Fire Department had to stand by their equipment until mutual aid was called at 10:35. By that time it was too late to make a difference. A 1951 ruling by the City Council required that City firemen remain within the City limits. This resolution has been updated over the years and there is a current Mutual Aid Program in place.

August 21-22, 1960 Sacks of dehydrated alfalfa caught fire at the Nulaid Farmers warehouse. The fire took all night to put out. While firemen were standing watch the next day, Chief Eaglin noticed flames coming from the Ash Bag Company across the street. Five hundred thousand empty bags were reduced to ashes by the time the fire was controlled. A watch was kept on both sites for several days.

October 10, 1960 A second Nulaid warehouse went up in flames. More than 15,000 sacks of feed were lost. The heat caused power lines to sag, so Chief Eaglin had power shut off, putting the east side of town in the dark. The railroad requested that fire hose laid across the track be removed so a train loaded with fruit could continue its run.

July 22, 1961 5:00 P.M. The alarm sounded and the three men on duty soon became ten. The Old Box Factory at First and 'G' Streets was coming to a spectacular end. The fire was believed to be arson. The Box Factory was where crates used in shipping eggs were made. Two near by residences were scorched. The PG&E poles were damaged and wires fell on the truck at the 'F' Street hydrant. The voltage regulator at 'D' Street Main Station was burned out.

July 1, 1962 Station 2 began to keep daily official records of rainfall.

July  1, 1963 Chief James (Slim) Eaglin retired after 39 years of service to the department. For the first time, the City decided to give a competitive written and oral examination to fill the post of Fire Chief.

July 8, 1963 Clarence C. Baal Jr. of Downey was hired as Fire Chief.

October 1964 Chief Baal ordered a 1965 Olds 98 Cotington Ambulance.

July 1965 Firefighter's Local 1415 was formed and the on-call system was established. Firefighters worked a 72-hour week and then were required to be on-call for 36 hours as volunteers.

February 10, 1966 Chief Clarence Baal was fired by the City because of a battle with Union members over on-call duty without pay.

September 1, 1966 Roscoe A. Benton was appointed as the new Fire Chief.

July 4, 1967 The Golden Eagle Milling Company was reported on fire at 3:09 A.M. Four engines and the aerial responded. Almost 40,000 gallons of water was needed to suppress the fire, but the buildings were a total loss.

April 1968 The Fire Department started doing Fire Safety Inspections at all businesses in the City limits.

May 6, 1968 Fire destroyed the Continental Hotel. The structure was built about 1875, the second hotel on that site. The first was the City Hotel, which began as a hotel in Valparaiso, Chile, in 1849. Four years later it was shipped to Vallejo, California to serve as the State Capitol. It was then purchased by C. H. Veeder and brought to Petaluma. After its demise, the Continental was built in the same style on the same site. In the July 1906 Argus, an article mentioned that the facade would soon become a "mission design" as drawn by local Architect Brainard Jones. Firemen were stunned when they watched the second story of the hotel crash to the ground. The hotel and all four street level businesses were destroyed.

October 8, 1968 Retired Chief Slim Eaglin passed away at age 70.

August 1, 1971 The new Valley Side Station (now known as Fire Station 3) at 831 South McDowell Boulevard was opened. The structure cost $97,000.00. It also had a new Van Pelt pumper.

June 30, 1972 Chief Roscoe Benton retired.

July 1, 1972 Joseph Ellwood was named Chief.

June 1973 A "brush" truck was purchased and housed at the new Station 3.

August 4, 1974 At 8:15 A.M. a call came in for Ken's Market at 400 Eighth Street, where a cigarette had been discarded in the trash. The damage was contained to the storeroom, but there was smoke and water damage throughout the building.

February 1975 Apartments at 623 'F' Street were destroyed when fumes from machinery exploded.

August 20, 1975 The Petaluma Co-op Creamery on Western Avenue was reported ablaze at 1:42 A.M. The fire started in a second floor stockroom, where bundles of cartons and boxes containing plastic milk bottles caused it to spread rapidly. All three engines and the aerial responded, as well as seventeen off-duty fire fighters. The total manpower on the scene was thirty-five. The fire was contained to the building of origin.

 

1976-Present

December 25, 1976 1:28 A.M. A tragic Christmas for the Meader family. Wrappings from gifts had been left in a plastic bag on the floor furnace grate. The home was fully involved when the engine arrived on the scene. The firefighters found two small children dead in an upstairs bedroom; two other children were injured and taken to the hospital.

January 1, 1977 2:46 A.M. A general alarm sounded for a fire reported at Beasley's Restaurant, 170 Petaluma Boulevard North (Wickersham Building). All the engines, the aerial and five off-duty firefighters responded. There was one fatality and the building suffered major damage.

March 20, 1977 A malfunction of a heater and a heater flue did damage to the building and stock at Harmony Music Store on the ground floor of the Masonic Building.

August 28, 1977 Chief Joe Ellwood passed away of a coronary, at age 52.

January 2, 1978 The alarm came in at 1:18 A.M. The sky was ablaze. Officer Bartholomew reported the business complex on Washington Street consisting of Acme Sheet Metal, the old Friedman Brothers floor covering store and hardware store, Pacific International Auto Parts and the Acme warehouse on fire. Two engines were immediately dispatched; the aerial and all personnel were summoned. This fire aggressively spread and the whole complex of older buildings was a total loss.

January 26, 1978 The units were dispatched to a galley fire in the Albatross moored at the end of Second and 'B' Streets. Damage was minor.

February 1, 1978 Robert L. Sharps of Mountain View was hired as Chief.

August 12, 1979 The Great Petaluma Mill in the Antique Emporium reported fire at 6:34 P.M. Nineteen off-duty firefighters responded to help the eleven on-duty personnel. The Steamer Gold Restaurant was evacuated, but it sustained no damage. The fire started in the second floor store, and damage was contained to the site of origin.

January 31, 1980 The department purchased its first modular type ambulance. A 1971 Cadillac ambulance was sold.

September 3, 1981 The department hired six firefighter/paramedics.

September 1981 New Station 2 opens on Corona Road. The old Station 2 will become the Joseph Ellwood Center (the Kitchen).

October 14, 1982 A stubborn fire at the old Atkinson Dairy on Ely Boulevard began about 4:30 P.M. The fire was in an old pond used to hold twenty years of effluent from the dairy barn. The result was massive amounts of smelly smoke.

October 24, 1982 R.O. Shelling at Magnolia and Petaluma Boulevard North: A welder set off a grain dust explosion. One injured employee was taken to the hospital with burns. Spot fires were put out and a 24-hour watch was posted. The damage was $25,000.00.

August 11, 1983 Chief Sharps left the department.

August 16, 1983 Leslie H. Lenz, Jr. was appointed as the new Chief.

December 9, 1984 The Great Petaluma Mill Annex Fire. An electrical fire burned in the ceiling space and got a two-hour start before it was detected. There was about $400,000.00 in damage to the building and the contents.

May 7, 1987 The Apple Box fire at 124 Kentucky Street was caused by furniture cleaning rags left in the basement, which led to spontaneous combustion. There was $300,000.00 in damages. The building was originally the American Stables. The support rafters in the floor were 16" by 16" by 30' redwood beams that were merely charred by the blaze.

January 3, 1987 Chief Les Lenz was killed in an auto accident.

August 3, 1987 James Gibson was hired as Fire Chief. He resigned in January of 1988.

January 25, 1988 Terry Krout was sworn in as Fire Chief.

November 1988 Cherry Valley School suffered heavy fire damage from an arson fire.

October 1989 An engine from Petaluma was part of a strike team that went to the Santa Cruz area to help with the Loma Prieta Earthquake.

October 1991An engine from Petaluma was sent to the Oakland Hills fire.

1993 saw the department answer fire calls to nine structures where more than one hour was spent suppressing the blaze and more than one fire engine responding.

November 1993 A strike team from Petaluma was sent down to help fight the Malibu wildfire.

December 13, 1993 The Mahoney building at 246 Petaluma Blvd North went up in flames. The fire consumed the recently renovated building. There was $350,000.00 in damages.

1995 The first major structure fire was a house fire in March. That month saw one additional fire at 23 Petaluma Boulevard. In April, there were four additional home fires. There were six more substantial fires to finish the year, including MOM'S Restaurant on Petaluma Boulevard South.

1996 There were eight responses to various structure fires from January to June. Then on July 4 at 5:52 P.M., a tanker carrying gasoline flipped over on the Washington Street exit and burned to the pavement. Vegetation and fences within a 150-foot radius were scorched.

October 1996 Petaluma sent a strike team to the Calabasas fire near Malibu.

August 1999 Petaluma was part of a strike team that went to the Quincy Complex fires. The unit protected structures at the Tobin Resort.

November 2001 Fire Chief Terry Krout retired

November 20, 2001 Chris Albertson is sworn in as Fire Chief

July 11, 2008 Fire Chief Chris Albertson retired

July 21, 2008
Larry Anderson is sworn in as Fire Chief


Our Department: Now

The City of Petaluma Fire Department, under the command of Fire Chief Larry B. Anderson, has 58 full-time personnel, 51 of which are uniformed. The Department operates three fire stations, a Fire Training Center and nearly 14 pieces of emergency apparatus. The Department serves a population of 60,000 residents in a 14 square mile area.

The Department maintains a fire insurance rating of ISO 3, the third highest possible on a rating scale of 10. The average response time to emergencies throughout the city is less than 5 minutes.

All firefighters are comprehensively and vigorously trained. Certification is achieved through colleges, the California State Board of Fire Services, the National Fire Academy, and others.

Approximately 28% of the City General Fund budget is spent to provide fire and rescue services.

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Contact Information

Larry B. Anderson, Fire Chief

Jeff Schach,
Battalion Chief - Administration & EMS Division

Cary Fergus

Fire Marshal

Phil Sutsos,
Battalion Chief - Support Services Division

Jeff Holden,
Battalion Chief - Operations & Training

Russ Rasmussen,
Battalion Chief - Communications & Technology

 

Petaluma Fire Department Location:
198 ‘D’ St.
Petaluma, CA 94952
phone: 707.778.4390
alternative emergency phone:
707.762.4545
fax: 707.762.4547
email:
firedept@ci.petaluma.ca.us
Fire Prevention Bureau Location:
22 Bassett Street
Cary Fergus
Fire Marshal
phone: 707.778.4389
fax: 707.776.3642
mailing address:
11 English Street
Petaluma, CA 94952