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History of The San Rafael Fire Department

San Rafael’s Fire Department was first established on December 5th, 1874 by two men: William Miller and J.B. Rice. They called themselves the “San Rafael Hose, Hook and Ladder Company” and they were comprised of 45 male volunteers. The first piece of equipment they used was a hand pulled hose cart that connected to various fire hydrants throughout the city. The city of San Rafael’s water system was fed by gravity that created water pressure, thus making the need for hand or steam pumps unnecessary.

By the 1890’s, San Rafael Hook and Ladder Company had 55 fire hydrants dispersed throughout the city and its members had doubled to 90 volunteers. They were also equipped with an additional hand pull hose cart and a team of horses to pull their wagons. Most of the Fire Department still relied heavily on horsepower and they didn’t receive a motorized vehicle until 1914. This motorized device was called a Pope chemical wagon and was a pump and hose apparatus combined into one.

In 1917, San Rafael opened Fire Station 51, which is celebrating its 100th year this year. Fire Station 51 was the only fire station in all of San Rafael until the mid-1980’s. In 1945, Fred Schueuer was hired as the first full-time fire chief of the San Rafael Fire Department and was the only person with a paid position. Throughout the next 60 years, the fire department grew to 15 paid positions with volunteers filling up any needed space.

Today the San Rafael Fire Department has grew immensely in size. SRFD has 7 fire stations and as of 2012, employs 77 firefighters. In addition to the 77 firefighters San Rafael employs they also share their personnel with Larkspur and Marinwood to cover any shortages they may encounter. The Fire Department does not solely focus on fire suppression like they did in the early twentieth century. They still focus on fire suppression, but heavily emphasize the importance of fire prevention. As much as 70% of their calls seek medical attention. Due to this, a paramedic is on board every one of their fire engines department wide. Our 22 ton manitex crane is no hook and ladder but it does help people reach new heights! We hope you enjoy this little bit of San Rafael history.

Learn about Mission San Rafael Mission Archangel here.