The Los Angeles Fire Department is also known as the Los Angeles City Fire Department to distinguish it from the County Fire Department. It is the agency that provides fire protection and emergency medical services for the city of L.A. The department has it origins in the year 1871. In September of that year, the Los Angeles County Engine Company No. 1 was organized by the County Clerk.
It was a volunteer firefighting force utilizing a fire engine and a hose jumper. The firefighting equipment was hand-drawn to fires. Early in 1874, the fire company requested of the Los Angeles City Council to purchase horses to move the engine. The council refused and the fire company disbanded. Soon after that the city purchased its first hook-and-ladder truck, which turned out to be too unwieldy and was not well adapted to the needs of the city.
The truck was sold to the city of Wilmington, and in 1876, another hook-and-ladder was purchased, serving in the city until just after 1880. During 1877, the original horses were acquired for the city fire department. The agency would continue to use horses for its equipment for almost fifty years, phasing out the last horse drawn equipment in 1921. When the L.A. Fire Department was formed in 1886, it had 4 fire stations, 2 steam fire engines, 2 hose reels, a hose wagon, an aerial ladder truck, thirty-one paid firefighters, twenty-four reserves and 11 horses to protect 30 square miles and a population of about 50,000.
By 1900, the fire department had grown to 18 stations with more than 120 full-time paid firefighters and 80 horses. The city installed 193 fire-alarm boxes allowing citizens to sound the alarm if a fire was seen. 660 fire hydrants were placed throughout the city, giving firefighters access to a reliable water source. In 1911 the agency had 32 stations. That year, the last of the stations specifically designed for horses were constructed.
Today, the fire agency has approximately 3,600 personnel operating from 106 stations who provide fire prevention, emergency medical care, hazardous materials handling, disaster response, and community service to a resident population of more than 4 million, living in 471 square miles.
Matt Paolini is a local government writer for CityBook, the family-safe Los Angeles yellow pages online, which carries an extensive directory on Los Angeles tax.