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History of Arcadia Fire Department

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In 1909 the Arcadia Fire Department was officially organized under the direction of Fire Chief Charles S. Smith, who also acted as Chief of Police. A Seagrave 750 gpm pumper was purchased and one fireman, J.M. Nellis, was hired. The remaining fire fighting force consisted of approximately 30 volunteers. Prior to this, Arcadia’s only fire fighting equipment was a reel of 2 ½” hose kept at the old City Hall, then located at First Avenue and Huntington Drive, and manned by any citizens who were available at the time of a fire.

Over the years as the City of Arcadia continued to grow, the Fire Department underwent a tremendous change in an effort to provide superior public safety services. By 1938, J.M. Nellis had been appointed as the Fire Chief and 19 full-time firefighters were hired, marking the end of the volunteer firefighting system.

During the growth of Arcadia’s firefighting force, an equally important activity of the Fire Department was in the process of development. In October 1952, as a result of a preliminary investigation made by the Board of Fire Underwriters of the Pacific, one person was assigned to full-time duty as a fire prevention inspector, later to become Fire Marshal. Since Arcadia was primarily residential, fire prevention activity at that time was mostly concerned with the inspection of residential areas and elimination of fire hazards consisting mostly of dry weeds and grass on private property. With the passage of time, however, came more diversity, with emphasis on inspection of mercantile and industrial areas, schools and places of public assembly.

Construction was started in 1958 on a new headquarters station at 710 S Santa Anita Avenue, and a new Station No. 2 at 630 S Baldwin Avenue, the latter on property donated to the City for this purpose by the Los Angeles Turf Club.

On July 1, 1958, after 35 years of service, Chief J.M. Nellis retired, and Assistant Chief Laurence J. Way was appointed Acting Chief by City Manager Neil F. Anderson. Five months later he was appointed as Fire Chief.

In December 1958, the new Headquarters station was opened for operation, housing Fire Department administrative offices, the alarm equipment room, and the dispatch office, and designed to accommodate the eventuality of two pumpers, a ladder truck, rescue and reserve apparatus and a complement of 16 firefighters.

The City’s first truck company was organized in February 1963, with the purchase of the newest innovation in the fire service, an elevated platform, or snorkel. This piece of apparatus housed all the tools for light and heavy rescue work and could elevate a nozzle capable of delivering 1,000 gallons of water per minute to a height of 85 feet above a fire, or into the upper floors of a tall building.

The newest service provided by the Arcadia Fire Department, and one of the most vital importance to the citizens of Arcadia, was the rescue/ambulance, which was placed in operation on April 9, 1973. The ambulance was equipped as a mobile intensive care unit and was staffed by two paramedics on each shift, who were trained in emergency care. Nine firefighters were trained as paramedics and a paramedic program was implemented on November 1, 1973.

Fire Chief Gene Mahoney was appointed Fire Chief on February 19, 1973. A departmental reorganization was initiated on July 1, 1973. The positions of Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal were converted to duty Battalion Chiefs and a third Battalion Chief was added, providing a chief officer on duty at all times.

An Administrative Captain was assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau in a supervisory capacity. Three additional part-time inspectors and three on-shift public education officers were added. The public education officers were responsible for department activities relating to the public, including scheduling and instruction of classes and presenting demonstrations.

On August 22, 1975, Fire Captain Jerry Lee Broadwell was the first Arcadia firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. This heroic firefighter died of burns suffered when the roof of a burning building collapsed beneath him. Because of Captain Broadwell’s devotion to children and his belief in education, his fellow firefighters and grateful friends in the community dedicated the Children’s Reading Room of the Arcadia Public Library as a living memorial to him.

In December 1975, Chief Mahoney resigned from the department and Battalion Chief Robert Dick was placed in command in an acting capacity. On March 15, 1975, Chief Dick was appointed as Fire Chief until his retirement in 1977.

On March 23, 1977, Administrative Captain Gerald R. Gardner was appointed as Fire Chief and served in that capacity for 19 years. Among Chief Gardner’s many accomplishments during his tenure as Fire Chief was the upgrading of service to the community to produce a Class 1 rating for the department by the Insurance Services Office. Also during Chief Gardner's tenure was the construction of Fire Station No. 106 at Baldwin Avenue and Huntington Drive.

A series of acting and appointed fire chiefs followed Chief Gardner subsequent to his retirement in 1996, including Wayne Crabb, James Reid, Ken Lavoie, George Truppelli and Pete Bonano. David R. Lugo, Jr. was appointed Fire Chief on April 22, 2002, and served a five-year term. On July 20, 2007, Tony Trabbie was appointed Fire Chief and retired on April 30, 2014. After Chief Trabbie's retirement, Kurt Norwood was appointed Fire Chief on May 4, 2014, and served until July 2016. Michael E. Lang was named Fire Chief on July 10, 2016, and currently serves in this position.
Published: February 19, 2020