Order the Pasadena Fire Department 1887- 2000 History Book
The City of Pasadena is located in the San Gabriel Valley. This area was once inhabited by the Hahamogna Indians. The name Pasadena comes from a Hahamogna word meaning "Crown of the Valley". Pasadena was incorporated as a city in June of 1886. At that time, much of the area was covered with oaks and orange groves, with some of the City geography bearing names that reflect the past. Orange Grove Blvd., Oak Knoll, Oak, Los Robles Spanish for "the oaks", and others maintain the City's history for current citizens.
As Pasadena grew, the need for fire protection grew as well. However, the event that triggered the formation of a fire department was a little known piece of history. In 1885 some boys threw a stone into a building, at the corner of Fair Oaks and Mills Alley, that was being used by Chinese immigrants as a laundry. The stone tipped over a kerosene lamp, which started a fire that burned the building to the ground. The only apparent reason that the fire didn't spread to adjacent structures was the effort of one Johnny Mills, owner of the building, who fought feverishly to stop the fire's growth. It is not clear why the area's Chinese residents were blamed for the fire, although the shacks in the area were close together and run down, perhaps a fire hazard in themselves. In any case, the citizens started a small riot, and threatened the lives of many of the area's Chinese residents. A deputy sheriff by the name of Tom Banbury stepped in and halted the riot, he made all of the Chinese residents leave the area by the next day.
Perhaps considering the great Chicago fire of 14 years earlier, allegedly also started by a kerosene lamp (and Mrs. O'Leary's cow), the City, with some urging by a Dr. H.A. Reid (later a noted local historian), realized that a Fire Department was needed. On October 8, 1887, after a delay to raise money, the City Trustees passed a resolution authorizing a Fire Department and the office of "Chief" was created. They allocated just over $1,000 to start the Fire Department. The first Fire Department was simple, at best. The City's Blacksmith Shop built the first two pieces of fire apparatus, a hook and ladder rig and a hose cart. These were put into service on May 1 of 1888. They ran out of a temporary station on DeLacey, near the Wiley and Greeley's Livery Stable, which provided the horses. 24 men were selected to be the Fire Department, with 12 assigned to each piece of apparatus.
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