UC Davis Fire: Since 1917
The need to provide fire protection for the Davis Campus was first recognized by the Dean of the College of Agriculture in 1917. Several hand-drawn hose carts were purchased and strategically located throughout the small campus, which was then clustered around the Quad. Groups of students and professors were assigned to each cart and when a fire broke out, a steam whistle on the Creamery Building (located where Olson Hall now stands) was blown to summon the brigade. By 1939, a fire station and three pieces of motorized fire apparatus served the fire fighting needs of the campus with students, staff, and faculty making up the total volunteer department.
The Department established its current resident firefighter program in 1949, and by the mid 50's, began hiring career firefighters. In 1959, Charles Prather was hired as the department's first career Fire Chief, replacing volunteer Chief Leonard McKinnon. By 1974, the potential complexity of emergency problems posed by the developing research campus had reached a magnitude requiring a level of training and 24-hour per day commitment beyond that attainable with volunteer firefighters and this portion of the staff was disbanded.
Today, the Department has state-of-the-art equipment, rigorous training and fire prevention programs, and highly qualified staff capable of mitigating emergencies far beyond the imagination of the volunteers of 1917. The University has come a long way since then, and so has the UC Davis Fire Department.