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One of the first concerns of the citizens of the City of Fresno was the ever-present danger of fire. From the town’s founding in 1872 until 1877, the city was nearly burned to the ground several times. In 1877, the Fresno Volunteer Fire Department (FVFD) was organized. In 1886, one year after Fresno’s incorporation, the city leaders took over responsibility for fire protection and hired a professional staff, purchased proper equipment and built the city’s first permanent station, which doubled as City Hall.

This group of original photographs and program (donated from various individuals, firemen, and volunteer firemen) are examples of the rich collection that documents the Department’s service to the City of Fresno.

Fire horses are retired and Kissel Kar Chemical Engine takes their place, Aug. 25, 1917

FVFD Masquerade Ball program, 1898

Fire Company lead by Chief ER Higgins 4th of July Parade, 1890.

Fresno Volunteer Fireman with Engin #2, 1890.

Fresno Volunteer Fireman try out new aerial ladder on Fresno Street between Fulton and VanNess, 1895.

FVFD Group Portrait, 1905

FVFD Application for driver from Guy Waterman, 1901

Fresno Fire Department at Fresno City Hall, 1904.

Learn more about the Fresno Fire Department, big city firefighting in California, the history of firefighting in the U.S., and fire equipment.

Suggested Books and Websites:

Second Alarm: The Fresno Fire Department, 1877-1977: A Pictorial History of the Men and Equipment Who Have Served Fresno For the Past One Hundred Years, edited by Jerome D. Laval (1976).

The History of the Fresno Fire Department by Devin P. McGuire (2004).

Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archives
This website provides a vivid look at the City of the Angels’ fire department encompassing volunteers (1871 to 1885), the history of Black firemen (1897-1955), fire apparatus, fire boats, and horses.

San Francisco Fire Department Museum
An overview of San Francisco’s fire department, this website includes views of volunteer companies (1850-1866), the 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire, vintage fire houses, and the fire boats that saved the Marina District in the earthquake of 1989.

Silsby Steam Fire Engine
A brief illustrated history of the Silsby. Horace C. Silsby manufactured agricultural implements at his “Island Works” factory in Seneca Falls New York from 1845 to 1856. With the construction of their first engine in 1856, Silsby became one of the first manufacturers of steam fire engines. During the steam era, Silsby manufactured more steam fire engines than any other company, building well over 1000 machines.

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