The San Dimas Fire Department
- Published Date
Jack Carruthers took off running - up the hill from his home on N. San Dimas Ave. (now known as the Mansion) - after hearing the fire siren mounted on J. S. McIntyre’s 6th Street garage. Unfortunately, a picket fence caught him on the way, and the fire truck went rolling down San Dimas Avenue without him, driven by “little” Jack McIntyre who knew only one speed and that was “wide open”.
The history of the San Dimas Fire Department started sometime before 1910, with equipment purchased by donations from citizens, packing houses, and merchants. This equipment consisted of a two-wheeled cart on which was mounted a 60-gallon chemical tank, 200 feet of one-inch hose, axes, shovels, wet sacks, etc. The cart was pulled by man, horse, or automobile, depending on who got to the Fire Shed first. If it was an automobile, the cart was usually turned upside down at the first corner and all the equipment dumped in the street. The chemical tank would also be partly discharged, so when it arrived at the fire it was useless.
Shortly after the 1910 fire which destroyed the orange packing house, the galvanized iron Fire House was moved next to J. S. McIntyre’s San Dimas Garage at 108 W. Bonita Ave. and the siren mounted on the roof of the Johnstone Block. Jack McIntyre, the volunteer Deputy Fire Warden, took charge and installed a trailer hitch on the cart and saw to it that the equipment was always ready to go.
In 1922, the Chamber of Commerce got the local citizens to donate $2400 for a new Fire Truck. It was a Ford Truck, with two 30-gallon chemical tanks, 200 feet of hose, and other equipment. However, there was no water pump, and our water pressure was not good enough to do much without a pump. However, we got by with this until 1926 when a new truck with a 350-gallon pump was purchased
On December 17th 1923, the San Dimas Fire Protection District was formed with Jack McIntyre as Fire Foreman at $100 per month. This new Fire District was under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Fire Warden.
In 1925, the San Jose Division Headquarters of the Los Angeles County Fire Warden was set up at 114 E. First Street, with Ken Carter in charge. Also in 1925, a Lookout Tower was built on Goddard Hill, southeast of town. This Tower was used to spot fires along the mountains from Monrovia on the west to Upland on the east. It was manned twenty-four hours a day during World War II to spot and report aircraft. This Lookout was eventually shut down as the smog became so dense that visibility was too poor to make it useful.
The building on East First Street that is now used by the Mountain Rescue Team, was built in 1937 by the WPA. The men who served at this station were Chief Ken Carter, Russ Ireland, Dean Way, “Buck” Hooper, Bill Collins, Bannie Benner, Bud Carroll, Orie Trout, and many others.
When San Dimas incorporated in 1960, it was decided to remain in the County Fire Protection District, so fire protection would be furnished by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
In 1992 a new Fire Station was built at 164 S. Walnut. There are now two complete Fire Stations within the City of San Dimas and several other stations just a few minutes away.
In spite of our watchfulness, San Dimas has had several disastrous fires in its history. After the 1910 packing house fire, a bad fire in the mountains north of San Dimas burned for thirty days in 1919 before it could be extinguished. In 1932, another packing house burned, along with the Santa Fe Depot. In 1954, the Christian Church burned to the ground, the fire having been started by runaway boys hiding in the basement.
In September, 1955, the worst fire in San Dimas’ history occurred after two weeks of extremely hot, dry weather. This fire started south of town, and not only burned 12 homes, but also destroyed many acres of valuable watershed, 3100 citrus and 1400 avocado trees. The Southern Pacific Depot on South Cataract was a complete loss.
This fire illustrated the value of cooperation, for besides the Los Angeles County Fire Department, units came from the Juvenile Probation Camps, United States Forest Service, California Department of Forestry, Los Angeles City, Pomona, Covina, W. Covina, Monrovia, and Orange County.