The Firehouse Expansion Project
The firehouse expansion project was accomplished by using the old “barn-raising” concept of the past. By asking the community to contribute labor, materials, equipment and supplies this project was completed for one third the cost, were it to be done by outside contractors. The increase to the current parcel assessment is less than a dime a day, yet the benefits gained are immeasurable and far-reaching. The twenty-two volunteers of the Fieldbrook Volunteer Fire Department are there for our community 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
According to the first minutes taken from a meeting in June 22, 1955,
“This meeting was called to order by Mr. Zetterberg Master of the Fieldbrook Grange. A report was given by Jess Luster for the committee that visited Blue Lake Fire Department. It was reported it would cost $1.05 per hundred in taxes to join Blue Lake. We would gain no more protection than now. We might get some equipment here after their present equipment is paid for. It was Mr. Luster’s opinion we should be able to get a truck and equipment locally for $1000 or so and no more taxes.
Mr. Zetterberg reported that Arcata does not want us affiliated with them because it is too far away.
Mr. McCready reported that Arcata has a 1933 Chevy truck, pump with a Chrysler motor, hose and equipment all ready to go for $500. Arrangements for payments can be made if a Fire Department is established. Arcata would be duty bound to come up here under mutual assistance. It was suggested we go to Westhaven for help as they have a set up similar to what we need here.
Mrs. Daugherty reported they have a motor and can get a pump that could be mounted on a trailer. Mr. Daugherty’s labor is to be donated.
Nominations for temporary officers were made:
Fire Chief – Dougles Mc Cready
Assistant Chief – Bill Hiscox
Secretary- Velda Mc Cready
Treasurer- Doreen Hiscox
Mr. Marton and Mr. Thomson were appointed to go over the truck for sale.
The officers as a committee are to visit Westhaven for assistance in organizing.
Next meeting to be called when reports are in.
The meeting was adjourned.
Velda Mc Cready
This is how the Fieldbrook Fire Department began. Doug and Velda Mc Cready were involved with the early stages of forming the fire department and the fire hall has a placard in honor of their dedication. In 1980 Mary Bobillot gave this speech, in front of the fire department, to the community of Fieldbrook.
“It is an honor to be asked to speak today at this dedication, about the early history of the Fieldbrook Fire Department.
I guess my age is finally catching up with me.
I know there are many of you who knew Doug longer and closer than I so I hope I do this justice.
The early history about Doug and the Fire Department were a little hard to dig up – but this I fund out and remembered.
Doug and Velda moved to Fieldbrook around 1947. Doug had served in the armed forces and worked at the California Barrel Factory.
He leased the big barn (Christie’s) and started his dream of having a dairy. He was just getting started so he hauled logs for Leo Cargill to supplement his income. My earliest recollection of Doug and Velda was driving by that barn and they would be working late at night or early in the mornings at his dairy.
After he moved to Fieldbrook he became the driving force, along with the Fieldbrook Grange, to get our community a Fire Department.
Around 1956, a truck was located at the Arcata Airport for $500. The community members were asked to donate $25.00 a family. $250.00 was raised, so they had a dance to raise the rest of the money.
Naturally, since we didn’t have a fire hall the truck was parked at Doug and Velda’s house, in the garage. I assume he was appointed Fire Chief.
I don’t know how many fires were attended by that truck but I know he was there when it was needed.
I remember when Grandma Christie’s house burned. Everyone in the community was there helping. The house couldn’t be saved but we all got the furniture and clothes out. I remember seeing flames leaping thru the walls while I was carrying something out. Well, we have come along way since then.
After Tony and I moved here, Tony gave Doug a siren we had, and Doug put it across the street from his house. Later a larger one was put on the store on a higher tower.
The Fire Department grew under Doug’s leadership and a 1947 Chevy truck was acquired and parked in our garage. This one wouldn’t fit in Doug’s garage.
I remember we had company from Oregon and some firemen over for dinner one night. The siren went off and everyone jumped up from the table, knocking over chairs and running for the garage. Our company sat dumbstruck wondering if we were going to be bombed or invaded by a foreign country. In fact, one time Tony took the side of the garage off in his haste to get the truck out. Off the truck would go with coattails flying in the wind. Some things don’t change.
Beside Doug in the early Fire Department roster was my husband Tony, George and Jess Luster, Ralph Lambeth, Wilson Grissom, Ruth Sargent, Bill Hiscox, Marlan Taylor, Earl Watson, R. Stuart, and Ralph Miller.
The fire meetings were held at the new school after 1961, when it was built. By the way, Doug had spent two years clearing land where the school was built, to grow his hay on. I don’t know how thrilled he was about that new school being built there but Doug never complained much about anything.
There was a active women’s auxiliary called the Smokettes that raised a lot of money that kept the Fire Department going.
In May 1966, this land we are standing on was purchased for the fire dept, and in 1967 Doug’s dream came true and the first meeting held here was in November of that year. In 1969, a phone alarm was put in and John Skindle at the store answered the phone. I guess someone had to go down and push the button to start the alarm before that.
But whenever the siren would go off, Doug would be the first to get there, usually before the second blast. I remember squealing tires tearing out of the corner anytime of night and day.
Finally a 1950 Studebaker and then a 1952 truck were purchased. Doug would never drive that new truck until one night he got here and the old one was already gone, so he had to drive it. Once he dented it, by backing the other truck into it.
Doug was a courageous man. We remember sadly the sleeping baby who perished in a fire. Doug had to be restrained many times by Dave Hedt from going into the inferno but there was no way to get the baby. Finally a hole was cut in the back of the house and they reached the child, but it was too late. Doug took it so hard. We all had nightmares after that.
In February of 1975 Doug came down with a bad case of the flu. And on a cold winter a barn burned. Doug had heart trouble besides, but insisted on working all night putting out the fire, and mopping up.
On February 9th he died of pneumonia. What can you say about a man who dedicated over 30 years to his community and fire department? This quiet unassuming man who was a friend to all. I never heard a bad word about the McCready’s. The coffeepot was always on for anyone who dropped by. Children and teenagers loved him. A tennis court was going to be built in honor of the McCready’s service. But I have a feeling this nice shiny Fire Hall and trucks and new pavement are much more up his alley. I never did see Doug play tennis anyway. Thanks to Doug and all the good firemen for all those years and time. We have all this – in Doug and Velda’s name we dedicate this hall.”
In the beginning there was no Fire Hall so the truck was parked at Fire Chief Doug McCready’s house. The first siren was donated by Tony Bobillot and placed across from Doug McCready’s house. Later, a larger one was put on a tower at the Fieldbrook Market.
The Fire Department purchased a 1947 Chevy truck and it was parked in the Bobbillot’s garage as it did not fit in the Fire Chief’s garage.
When the new school was built in 1961 all fire meetings were held there.
In May 1966, the land for the present day Fire Department was purchased. The first meeting was held there in November 1967.
Pouring the slab for the original Fieldbrook Volunteer fire house
The original fire hall was slightly different than it is today. The building first had two bays and the community service office and bathroom were located on the north side, presently the bay where 8747 is located. Additions over the years have added to the south side of the building. The addition included a new bay for a larger water tender, a community service office, a kitchen, and bathrooms. The back of the fire hall was added on for a space for turnouts and storage.
The original dispatch of an emergency started by a phone call that went to designated phones, which were typically at the fire chief’s home (Night time calls), and the Fieldbrook Market (Day time calls). Depending on the time of day, either John Skindle, Bill or Ron Daley "the owners of the market" or the chief would race to the fire house and sound the siren. The siren was originally the main way of alerting volunteer firefighters of an emergency. As the fire department grew, members were issued a monitor that sat in their home. The sheriffs department (Control 8) dispatched calls to the monitors. During the 90’s the siren was replaced with the present siren that is mounted on a tower. Also at that time, a system was installed that automatically opened the doors. The dispatch was moved from the sheriff’s department to Cal Fire (CDF) Fortuna and monitors were replaced by pagers.
Every Fire Department needs a Fire Chief to be in charge of the organization. Fieldbrook has been fortunate to have these individuals who have stepped up to the plate to run the department and spend the extra time that it takes to keep it running and keep the community safe:
|Douglas McCready||1955-1961||Mel Langer||1975-1978|
|Ed East||1961-1962||Larry Georgianna||1979-1987|
|Richard Mason||1962-1963||Roy Sheppard||1988-1995|
|Louis Dodd||1963-1964||Doyle McLain||1996-2000|
|George Luster||1964-1969||Larry Georgianna||2001-2002|
|Carl Hershberger||1970-1975||Richard Grissom||2003-Present|
The Fieldbrook Fire Department’s first fire truck was a 1930 Chevy that was purchased from the Arcata Fire Department. As the town of Fieldbrook grew in size, the need for a better fire truck also increased, as is evidenced by this letter from Helen Mason to the state of California.
“Dear Mr. Ted Gumbo,
At our last regular fire meeting I was asked to write you a letter asking if you can help us get a truck through civil defense. Our truck is a 1930 Chevy with mechanical brakes that won’t stop the truck if you go to a fire like you should in a hurry. We crawl to and from a fire. The tires are very bad, usually a flat dual. Our fire department consists of about half women. Most of the time the men are away all day and we have to go out on a call. We do not have the money to go out and buy a fancy truck. All we want is a safe usable one that we can mount our motor and tank on.
Helen Mason, Secretary”
The numbers of Fire Trucks that have protected our town of Fieldbrook have gone from one engine with a 300 gallon tank to four engines with a total of 4800 gallons of water! The fire trucks that have been in service are categorized as an attack (first responding truck), water tender (holding a large quantity of water), or pumper (fire engine that has water and a large pump). Following is a list of fire trucks that have served the Fieldbrook Valley:
1930 or 1933 Chevy (Pumper) PICTURE WANTED
1947 Chevy (Pumper) Home Built PICTURE WANTED
1950 Studebaker (Water Tender)
1953 Federal General Fire Apparatus (Pumper)
Now used for parades and fire truck rides.
1954 GMC Van Pelt (Pumper)
1954 International (Water Tender)
1970 Ford F-150 (Attack)
1977 Dodge Power Wagon (Attack)
1976 International Van Pelt (Water Tender) - 8756 In Service
1984 GMC FMC (Pumper) - 8714 Retired
1995 International Motors Becker (Pumper) - 8715 In Service
1990 Beck Motors Becker (Pumper)-8717 In Service
2006 Ford F-550 Rosenbauer (Attack)-8747 In Service
In the early stages of Fire Department, community members donated money to buy the first fire truck. As the Fire Department grew in members, insurance needed to be purchased for the members. Also, members paid for the maintenance and fuel for the fire truck.
There was a very active women’s auxiliary called the Smokettes . The Smokettes were Fieldbrooks daytime fire protection since most of the men were at work. They also raised money to keep the fire department going through fundraisers such as: Selling fire extinguishers, a grab bag at the old store and gas station, collecting and sold aluminum cans, raffles.
The Firemen’s Dance was another fund raiser. The dance’s were held once a year at the Fieldbrook Grange and were known to be quite the party. This fund raiser brought in money for the fire department, however the sheriff was called to show up to break up fights which finally brought the dance to an end.
Other fundraising that has taken place are rummage sales, grange breakfasts, firewood sales, and even fireworks during the fourth July.
One of the fundraisers that has been around for awhile is the annual chili dinner. The dinner was originally a stew dinner and was later changed to a chili dinner. The annual chili dinner not only raises money for the department, it also gives the department an opportunity to update mapping, and meet with he community.
During the mid 80’s the first Tax Assessment, Measure C, was voted in by the community this is the major source of funding to keep the fire department running. Without the support of the community, it would not have the fire protection that it does today. The Tax Assessment pays for everything that makes this department run including insurance for the firefighters, equipment, and supplies. The Tax Assessment does come up for vote every ten years and always needs the vote from the community.
The Fieldbrook Volunteer Fire Department has come along ways from its beginning and continues to grow in many ways and provide excellent service to its community.
We are always looking to find out more about the history of the Fieldbrook Fire Department. If you have information, or pictures regarding its history, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Fieldbrook Volunteers 2009
The Fieldbrook Volunteer Fire Department was founded in 1955. Check out how far our fire department has come over the years.
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