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S.B.F.D. History

Santa Barbara City Fire Dept.



Santa Barbara began as a quiet pueblo with little need for organized fire protection during its early development. The town consisted primarily of adobe buildings, but the building materials changed with the arrival of the “Yankee” trader and the introduction of wooden structures.1931_ffs_sta3.JPG

In January 1874, some of the town’s leading citizens organized “Pioneer Company #1.” J.W. Rich was named foreman of this original volunteer firefighting effort, but for nearly a year after its inception, this newly formed unit possessed scarce equipment. Firefighters had little more than willing hands with which to fight their fires. Tragedy struck in March 1874 when St. Vincent’s Orphanage burned to the ground, causing sufficient public outcry to persuade City Council to purchase a hand-pumper and hose carriage for the city. These pieces of equipment were delivered to Santa Barbara in October 1874 via ship “around the horn” to a landing at the base of State Street.
The new hand-pumper was originally housed in a cabinet shop at 1218 State Street, and then later moved to a new fire station at De la Guerra Plaza. This new station had both police and fire facilities on the ground floor, with City Hall located upstairs. Pioneer Company flourished for a few years, but eventually disbanded because of inactivity and lack of interest. So, once again, Santa Barbara was without organized fire protection.

Prior to the purchase of horses, firefighters pulled the pumper themselves when borrowed horses were not available. It was not until 1888 that the city acquired a team of horses to pull the steam pumper. Thus, by 1888, “Washington Company #2” proved to be a successful firefighting effort within the Santa Barbara community with its steam pumper, horse team, a hose cart with 800’ of hose, a hook and ladder company, plus a system of cisterns and wells used as the water source for firefighting. In addition, the growing community’s need for fire protection now warranted equipment and a permanent, paid, professional firefighting force in Santa Barbara.

In 1906, “Washington Company #2” became the Santa Barbara City Fire Department with John K. Dugan as Fire Chief. The city acquired its first motorized fire truck in 1910, a Pope-Hartford hose wagon with a 40-gallon chemical tank and several small portable fire extinguishers. By 1918, the department had four pieces of motorized equipment.
Santa Barbara continued to grow and new fire stations were built. During this period, the “Oak Park Volunteers” opened a station in 1909 on the corner of Padre and Castillo. Though closed in 1919, the original hose cart from this station is still used to this day for special events and parades.1940_squad.JPG

TODAY (2006)
The fire department consists of 112-person firefighting and administrative staff department and oversees the firefighting efforts of eight strategically located stations within the city. A broad range of Fire Department activities address Santa Barbara’s diverse needs: firefighting, rescue, emergency response and community disasters, Hazardous Materials response and inspection, fire investigation, wildland firefighting and vegetation reduction, plan-check for new construction and public education.

Today, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department protects a population of nearly 90,500 residents within a 23 square mile area of Southern California coastline. Within this lush expanse of land and sea lurks the ever-present potential for chaparral and wildfires, community disruption through earthquake, flood or wind damage, the danger of hazardous material spills, freeway disasters and other man made disasters. With a commitment to public education, ongoing training and state-of-the-art rescue and firefighting equipment, the skilled men and women of Santa Barbara’s firefighting force are well prepared to meet the challenges of community preparedness for the 21st century.

Of special interest is the Department’s 1.7-acre Firescape Demonstration Garden, a fine example of native plantings and drought-tolerant, fire-resistant landscape and path design. Created to demonstrate the benefit of creating defensible space around your home, the garden is home to over 160 fire safe plant species. Free to the public, the garden has clearly marked trails and plant information. Visitors may view the demonstration garden daily at Station 7, 2411 Stanwood Drive.

Washington Fire Co. #2

1874 St. Vincent’s Orphanage burned
1874 Pioneer Company #1 formed
1874 Fire Headquarters located in City Hall
1881 Pioneer Company dissolved
1882 Washington Company No. 2 formed
1882 Steam pumper delivered by ship
1888 Sycamore Canyon to Ortega Hill fire
1888 Two horses purchased to pull pumper
1890 5,864 people living in Santa Barbara
1906 Washington Co. becomes SBFD
1910 First motorized fire truck purchased
1913 Los Banos del Mar destroyed by fire
1923 Fire Headquarters moved to Chapala St
1925 6.3 earthquake, no fires
1932 Matilija Wildfire, 200,000 acres
1940 San Marcos Pass Fire, 2,500 acres
1955 Refugio Road Fire, 85,000 acres
1964 Coyote Canyon Fire, 90,000 acres
1964 C.L. Tenney Headquarters named
1973 Stearns Wharf fire – wharf condemned
1977 Sycamore Canyon Fire, 234 homes lost
1982 100-year anniversary of the SBFD
1990 Painted Cave Fire, 621 dwelling units
1990 85,571 people living in Santa Barbara
1990 City Fire takes over Airport Firefighting
1995 Floods – one fatality
1998 Stearns Wharf fire – remains open
1999 Firefighter Stephen Joseph Masto dies in line of duty
1999 Santa Barbara Bank & Trust Fire, 85 firefighters involved
2000 92,325 people in Santa Barbara (2000 census)                                            
2008 November 13th. Tea Fire, 280 homes lost
2009 May 5th. Jesusita Fire, 80 homes lost



Page Last Updated: Mar 06, 2016 (15:29:47)
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