Santa Clara County Fire Department

Saratoga - Historic Photographs

Campbell FD patch
Click on patch to see full size.

The Village of Saratoga had escaped the devastating fires that had plagued their neighboring towns. By 1900 only two businesses had been destroyed by fire in 40 years. At this time Saratogans, wih the help of Martin Kane, took up a collection and bought a two wheel hose cart with 400 feet (122 M) of 2-1/2" (64mm) hose. The equipment was kept just inside the door of Kane's blacksmith shop on the south-east corner of Big Basin Way at Third St. Two fire hydrants were installed on Big Basin and thus the Saratoga Hose Company was born.

In 1903 a fire bell, to call firemen in emergencies, was placed atop a steel tower over the jail on the southeast section of Fourth St. near Big Basin Way. The last time this bell was rung was Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, to celebrate the end of WWI.

On 24 February 1924 the Saratoga Fire District was legally incorporated.

A 1924 Ford Model T fire truck was purchased and stored in the north corner of Saratoga Garage, now the SFD station. Four more fire hydrants were installed along Big Basin Way Owners of large homes built swimming pools for water storage in case of fire and secondly for swimming.

A Sterling siren for use in fire alarms was purchased in May 1925.

In April 1928, SFD's second truck, a chemical Ford Model A, was purchased at the cost of $3500. It was retired in 1956, and restored by the members of the department and used for parades.

Ten more fire hydrants were installed along Oak St, Lumber St (Big Basin Way) and Saratoga-Mountain View Rd (Saratoga Sunnyvale Rd) at Marion Av and Williams Av in 1929 and 1930. Saratoga was now serviced by 16 hydrants.

Firemen met with representatives of the phone company on 31 Dec 1937 in regart to having a new relay answering service installed. Until then the fireman had to depend on the siren or the telephone operator for fire alarms. The first men to arrive at the station were the ones to drive the trucks. Written on a blackboard was the address and type of emergency for late arriving firemen. The next month the system was installed in four firemen's homes. With thisn relay the phones would ring continuously on an emergency call until it was answered by one person. The other three could listen. This system was eventually expanded to serve all firemen and used until 1969 when Plectrons were purchased.

Also in 1937 SFD bought its first pumper. This was a Diamond T deluxe truck with a Waterous rotary pump and a 350 gallon (1325l) storage tank. The cost was $4500. The Model T was retired and sold at auction.

In 1948 firemen donated their time, talents and materials to build the Firemen's Hall on Oak St for business and social activities.

By 1950 there were 32 fire hydrants in the Saratoga fire district.

A policy was established 17 July 1951 as to answering calls out of the District. On borderline cases all equipment would roll. Fires that were a considerable distance from the SFD area would receive assistance from the Diamond T truck and five men only.

Also in 1951 another pumper, an FMC (Food Machinery Corporation) truck was purchased for $13,750. A shortwave, 2-way radio was bought in June 1953 for connection with County Communications.

FMC test
from the collection of Captain Don Olson

The new FMC Engine 3 being tested, April 1951.

A new American LaFrance pumper was purchased in 1955 at the cost of $18,074.

The building where the trucks had been stored was bought for a fire station from Mr. D. Pascali in 1957. The price was $35,000. Plans had been considered for building a station on Oak St near the Firemen's Hall, but the Saratoga garage offered a better location with access to all strategic roads. Another truck was purchased, a squad, and eventually it became one of the best equiped rescue units in the Bay Area, according to ISO. A Hurst rescue tool ("Jaws of Life") was donated to SFD by the Saratoga Rotary Club, and was used within 8 hours after going into service to save a car accident victim.

old station old station
both: from the collection of Captain Don Olson

The original station, shown in 1963 and 1974, after an external remodelling and addition of a bell tower. The decorative bell was from a cargo ship.


The bell as it is displayed today, in front of the new Saratoga station.

The following year a 1958 Americal LaFrance 800 series truck was purchased at the cost of $22,819. The Diamond T was sold to a volunteer department in Idaho. The District purchased a Plymouth sedan "from the lowest bidder" in 1959 to serve as the first fire chief's car.

As a result of Insurance Service Offices (ISO) insurance fire rating area tests, SFD was classified to class 5 and 8 from the previous rate of 6 and 9.

SFD commissioners approved the purchase of an electric generator in 1960 to be used in case of power failure.

In 1963 the interior of the station was remodeled. A Van Pelt truck was purchased in 1964. This brought the total to five fire trucks. The section of northwest Saratoga, not covered by any fire department, was annexed into SFD in April 1965. That same year Central Fire District opened the West Valley station on Cox Av to serve some sections of Saratoga and unincorporated areas of the County in the West Valley.

Ernie Kraule became SFD's first paid chief in 1971. That same year the County proposed consolidation of Central Fire District and SFD. SFD commissioners were opposed to this and put together information for "Proposal merger of City of Saratoga into one fire district - namely Saratoga Fire District". It was tabled by the city.

A hotline direct to the San Jose Fire dispatcher's office was established 13 December 1971. Two mutual aid agreements were arranged between SFD and San Jose Fire Department.

In 1977, the department purchased a custom made Seagrave 1500gpm (5680lpm) diesel powered triple combination pumper, costing $69,995. Nine hoses could be connected to the pumper at the same time, and the Stang gun atop the rig could be used to soak the roofs of several building or a grass fire with one man at the controls.

Much of the information on this page from: "Saratoga Fire District History", by Margaret Reed, 24 Jan 1977
engine 2
from the collection of Captain Don Olson

Engine 2, a 1928 Ford Model A chemical truck. This truck was restored and is still owned by the Saratoga Fire District.

engine 113
from the collection of Captain Don Olson

Engine 113 was a 1955 American LaFrance 700. Originally Engine 37, it had a 750gpm (2840l) pump and a 400 gallon (1515l) tank. Costing $18,074 when purchased, it was sold in 1976 for $15,000.

engine 112
from the collection of Captain Don Olson

Engine 112 (formerly Engine 36), a 1957 American LaFrance 800, purchased in 1958. It had a 750gpm (2840l) pump and a 500 gallon (1890l) tank. In 1994 it was sold to the Last Chance Volunteer Fire Department in Santa Cruz County.

rescue 110 rescue 110

rescue 110

all: from the collection of Captain Don Olson

Rescue 110, a 1979 Ford C800/Emergency One. Top Left: Parked at the far right, it is seen here at the Emergency One factory in Ocala, FL. Top Right: Parked in Las Vegas being driven home from the factory. Bottom: another shot, this time viewed from the right side.

engine 115 engine 115 engine 115 engine 115
all: from the collection of Captain Don Olson

Four views of the same engine. Top: as Engine 115; Bottom: later, as Engine 32. A 1976 Seagrave, the engine was refurbished, and the lightbar and reflective stripes shown in the bottom photos installed in 1989. The cost of this engine in 1977 was $69,995. It had a manual transmission that was improperly geared for use in the hills, which caused the rear axle to break numerous times (8-10), and which was eventually replaced with an automatic transmission that caused no problems. This engine was sold in 2002 to the Paron Volunteer Fire Department in Paron, Arkansas.

Fire Commissioner Egan on engine 115's deck gun
from the collection of Captain Don Olson

Fire Commissioner Egan lends a hand on one of the deck guns on Engine 115 at the Vickery Avenue fire.

station teardown station teardown
both: from the collection of Captain Don Olson

August 18, 2003. The old 1924 station is torn down.

temporary quarters during construction
from the collection of Captain Don Olson

Temporary quarters for crew and apparatus during the construction of the new fire station.

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