April 2014
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OUR HISTORY: OVER A CENTURY OF SERVICE

Founded in 1893, Elk Grove's Fire Department started with a single hose cart and a small group of dedicated volunteers. From these humble beginnings, the Department has forged a lasting presence in the community.

The idea of forming a Fire Department was conceived by a group of citizens who started the Elk Grove Water Company in 1892 after a series of disastrous fires threatened to destroy the town. Construction of an eighty-foot water tower began in May of 1893 along Elk Grove Boulevard (the same location of Elk Grove’s current water tower). The tank held 45,000 gallons of water. 3500 feet of water main was laid East and West on Elk Grove Boulevard and five fire hydrants were installed. A coal-burning boiler produced the power to run the steam pumps.

With the basic water supply equipment in place, the group turned their efforts to organizing a volunteer fire company. Money to purchase fire fighting equipment was raised by community leaders through community dances and chicken pie suppers held at the Masonic Temple and the Toronto hotel. The original hose cart and a supply of 2.5 inch hose was purchased with the funds raised.

In 1897, a large fire bell was special ordered from the W.T. Garratt Foundry in San Francisco and erected in the hose-drying tower that also served as part of the hose cart house located just East of the Southern Pacific Depot, opposite the Masonic Temple. A second hose cart and additional hose was purchased around this same time.

In 1918, the hose tower and the equipment were relocated to a site behind the Odd Fellows Hall. This site was behind the justice court and the jail.

Each year the group added and improved the level of equipment available to its volunteers. A chemical cart was added in 1920. This engine had two 45 gallon soda and acid tanks for quick-attack. What this new machine made up for in ease of operation, it lacked in speed because it was pulled by hand like the hose carts. Elk Grove’s first Fire Chief, Del Cann, donated a Paige Roadster to the Department in 1920 to transport the tanks. The tanks were mounted to the rear of the vehicle – thus becoming Elk Grove’s first motorized fire engine.

In 1925, citizens saw the need for increased fire protection and decided to form the Elk Grove Fire District, a tax-supported agency covering approximately 100 square miles including the communities of Elk Grove, Sheldon, Franklin, and Point Pleasant. A 54-13 public vote resulted in the District’s formation. The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors officially declared the District formed on July 6, 1925.

The District’s first commissioners were Andrew Elliott, W.E. Everson, and W.S. Ajax. J.D. “Del” Cann was appointed as Fire Chief and Frank Everson as the Assistant Chief.

Additional equipment was purchased and placed into service between the years of 1925 and 1940 including an American-LaFrance chemical fire engine, a 1928 Moreland fire engine, a 1934 Ford fire engine, and a used 1927 Chevrolet pumper. The District served an estimated 3,000 citizens during these years. A second station was added in the Franklin area around 1928 and a third station in Sheldon around 1930.

In July 1940, Elk Grove Fire District became the first District in Sacramento County to employ a full-time Fire Chief. William Perry Schulze was appointed to that position.

Improvements in the fire department continued as the District purchased property at 9044 Elk Grove Boulevard and moved the corrugated iron building housing two of the engines to that site. A dwelling already on site of the property was used as the Fire Chief’s residence. The old hose tower was dismantled and the fire bell was moved to the new site. Volunteer firemen were called to duty instead via a large electric siren mounted on the town water tank. The siren was activated by telephone operators from the office of the telephone company.

No additional changes were made to the District’s inventory of equipment until the end of World War Two. In 1947, a new Van Pelt fire engine was purchased. Among the latest design at the time, the Van Pelt featured a high-pressure, 500 gallon per minute fire pump. The engine was used as the basis for future apparatus orders.

The District outgrew its quarters and constructed a new concrete block fire station in 1951. The new building had three apparatus stalls, meeting rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and other modern conveniences.

A series of serious automobile crashes in 1955 resulted in a great loss of life and served as the impetus for a new service to be offered by the Elk Grove Fire District. Emergency ambulance service provided by the Elk Grove Fire District was introduced in 1955. Elk Grove was the first fire department to initiate this level of service in Sacramento County. The first Department ambulance was a 1951 Chrysler loaned to the District by the County.

Increases in calls, both fire and ambulance, put new demands on the firemen. In 1957, a second full-time fireman was added. Twenty volunteer firemen continued to serve as the primary cadre of first responders.

A series of apparatus sales and purchases took place from 1951-1966 including the purchase of a 1931 Fageol, a 1950 International-Howe, a 1958 Ford, and a 1953 Dodge that had been converted from a cattle truck to a fire engine.

The original metal firehouse on Elk Grove Boulevard was moved around 1968 and a new four-stall metal building was constructed to house the apparatus. On July 1, 1969, Volunteer Assistant Chief Gerald Derr was appointed Fire Chief when Chief Perry Schulze moved to assume the duties of Fire Marshal. Derr had served as a volunteer since 1949 before he accepted the position of Fire Chief.

Station One was relocated again in 1975. The new building was located at 8760 Elk Grove Boulevard – where it continues to serve as Station 71 today. A remodel in 2001 updated the building allowing the station to meet the functional demands of a full time engine and medic crew.

In 1975, the Department consisted of Chief Gerald Derr, Deputy Chief Clifford Angell, Fire Marshal Robert Edwards, Assistant Chiefs Paul Betschart and Otto Hansen, Secretary-Dispatcher Virginia Schulze, four full-time captains, two engineers, two full-time fire fighters and fifty active volunteers. Most of the firemen were also Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). The Department responded to 922 emergency calls during the 1975-76 fiscal year. It operated a fleet of 18 fire vehicles, including two ambulances.

In 1985, the Department merged with the Elk Grove Recreation and Park District to form the Elk Grove Community Services District (CSD). The District opened the area’s fourth fire station in November of 1989 located on Laguna Park Drive.

Chief Derr retired as Fire Chief in June of 1990. He continued to act in the role of the CSD General Manager through 1991.

Tom Fischlin took the reins from Chief Derr as Fire Chief in 1990. During Chief Fischlin’s tenure, the Fire Department transitioned from a combination (volunteer/paid-call) Department to a career Department in 1996. Twenty-six line personnel were hired during the Department’s first career hiring process. Several of the Department’s volunteers assumed full-time employment through this hiring process.

Chief Fischlin retired in 1997. Upon his retirement, the District hired Mark Meaker, an assistant chief with 25 years of experience in what is now known as the Sacramento Metro Fire District, to serve as Fire Chief. Chief Meaker served as Elk Grove Fire Chief until his retirement in 2003. Deputy Chief, Keith Grueneberg, a 35+ year veteran of the California fire service, was promoted to the rank of Fire Chief upon Meaker's departure. Chief Steve Foster is Elk Grove's current Fire Chief.

In 1999, the CSD opened its fifth fire station, hired 15 additional fire fighting personnel, and moved its Sheldon station to a new facility located on Bond Road - closer to the District's urban core. A sixth fire station was opened in November 2001 and another hiring process expanded the Fire Department's personnel base by 15 line personnel - bringing Fire Department staffing totals to 93 line personnel, 8 chief officers and 7 other support personnel.

Equipment and apparatus sales and purchases have resulted in a state-of-the art fleet. A dual-purpose Pierce rescue-pumper, a Pierce pumper-water tender, and two Pierce urban interface combination structure-grass engines were acquired by the Department in 2000. A state-issued urban search and rescue OES engine was added in 2001 to render automatic aid throughout the state for wildland fires and/or other state emergencies and disasters.

In Fall 2004, the Department negotiated with the Wilton Fire Protection District to expand contract services to their organization including fiscal management, fire prevention, fleet maintenance, and overhead management. Also in 2004, Chief Grueneberg and the CSD executive management team began the process of relocating and constructing a new Fire Station 72 within the East Franklin Specific Plan and negotiating property for the District's seventh fire station.

The Department has worked, and continues to work, closely with other Sacramento County fire service agencies and actively participates in countywide utilization of the Incident Command System (ICS). Cooperation amongst the region’s fire service agencies resulted in the creation of the Sacramento Regional Fire/EMS Communications Center in 1985. This effort consolidated fire and emergency medical 9-1-1 dispatching services for all of Sacramento County. Additionally, a countywide boundary drop system was established that continues to provide the Department with the ability to mobilize resources from over 85 fire stations in the area to respond to major incidents.

Other improvements also evolved in the latter part of the millennium. In 1997, the Department instituted an alphanumeric pager system to recall personnel during major emergencies or disasters. A comprehensive wellness (fitness) program was also organized in 1999 to help maintain the health and wellness of first responders.

In 2006, the Department reached two important milestones - Steven Foster, a veteran with the Department, succeeded was Keith Grueneberg as Fire Chief, and a merger between the Elk Grove Community Services District (CSD) and the Galt Fire Protection District resulted in the creation of the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD). This change expanded the delivery of CSD fire protection and emergency medical services to the cities of Elk Grove, Galt, and unincorporated south Sacramento county areas -- approximately 157 square miles.

Continued growth and innovation in the fire service has prompted a diverse array of new Fire Department projects and responsibilities. Each year, the Fire Prevention Bureau conducts hundreds of new construction inspections and plan reviews and actively implements annual weed abatement and fireworks enforcement campaigns. Moreover, the Public Education Division coordinates a number of safety activities including "Change Your Clock-Change Your Smoke Detector Batteries" Campaign, the Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Program, the Life Jacket Loan-Out Program and Car Seat Safety Inspections. A new Special Operations Division was formed in 2007 that oversees the specialized rescue, hazardous materials, and disaster preparedness needs for the Cosumnes CSD Fire Department.

As they have done for more than 100 years, the members of the Cosumnes CSD Fire Department maintain their commitment to protecting the lives, property and environment from fire and other natural and manmade disasters and emergencies in a courteous, timely and effective manner. In 2010, Tracey M. Hansen, a 17-year veteran of the Cosumnes CSD Fire Department was named the new Fire Chief by CSD General Manager Jeff Ramos, the latest achievement in a career she began as a paramedic. Hansen Named John Michelini as her Deputy Chief and the team immediately began developing strategies to effectively manage the Fire Department during the recession.