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Anaheim Fire Department - the Past 35 Years

  If the growth of the fire service may be compared to a foot-race, then one could say that the Anaheim Fire Department sprinted around the corner from 1979, ran fast through the 80s and has continued a hard pace throughout the 1990s. The Department had seen significant growth and change during the 1970s, including such events as the introduction of paramedic service in the City, and the opening of new fire stations in the eastern portion of the City. This "tradition" of change sustained itself easily through the 1980s and well through the 1990s as the City continued to grow in size and population, and the Fire Department designed and implemented innovative programs and policies to keep pace with the increased demand for service.

  In the face of many retirements, new hires, promotions and, sadly, even deaths, the Fire Department's census changed dramatically during the 1980-1990’s. The new decade brought in a new Fire Chief, Bob Simpson, who was appointed by the City Council in February of 1980. Chief Simpson oversaw the Fire Department for five years until his appointment as Deputy City Manager in mid-1985.

  In turn, Chief Simpson eventually served as the City Manager for two years until his retirement in May 1990. Chief Darrel Hartshorn served as the interim fire chief from mid-1985 up until a disabling back injury forced him to leave active duty during 1986. After a national recruitment process, Anaheim’s own Jeff Bowman was appointed Fire Chief in December of 1986, and still leads the Fire Department in its mission of providing Anaheim's citizens with progressive, innovative and aggressive fire protection.

  The Fire Department staff was reorganized twice during the decade of the 1980s. Assistant Chiefs Ron Evans and Martel Thompson played prominent roles in the Department's administration throughout the first half of the decade, until Chief Thompson's appointment as Fire Chief for the City of Orange in 1983 and Chief Evan's retirement in 1987. Chief Bowman organized his Department’s staff into three divisions, each reporting to the Fire Chief: Operations (Fire Suppression), Administration, Fire Prevention and Emergency Services. The Division Chief positions are filled by upgrading battalion chiefs, on a minimum two-year rotational basis; with the exception of the Emergency Services Division, which is led by a civilian specialist in the area of disaster preparedness.

  In 1979 the Department staffed nine fire stations which housed a total of 11 engine companies, 3 trucks, 2 paramedic vans, and 2 battalion chiefs. The engines were staffed with 4 personnel, and the trucks with 3. Fire department members responded to 10,500 incidents that year; and the fire dispatch center was in operation at Station 1. By 1990, just ten years later, the Department added another station. Fire Station 10 (Weir Canyon Station) in the East End of the city, and has plans for as many as two (2) new fire stations. Fire Station 11 is planned for the far east end of Anaheim, where the development of residential and commercial occupancies continues. The Department now staffs 13 engine companies, nine of which are designated paramedic companies; 4 truck companies; 1 hazardous-materials unit; and two (2) Battalions, which are housed in Fire Station 3 (Resort Fire Station) and Station 8 (Riverdale Station). Both the engines and the trucks are each staffed with four (4) personnel, and the hazardous-materials unit is cross-staffed by Station 8 (Riverdale Station) personnel when an incident occurs. The Department employs a total of 269 sworn and civilian personnel, the Fire Department responded to 21,069 incidents in 1989. A decade later in 1999 The Anaheim Fire responded to a total of 23,476. Fire units are dispatched through the Metro Cities Fire Agency. This is a "Net" type of dispatch center. The word "Net" means that multiple fire agencies are dispatched through one dispatch center. The Anaheim Fire Department manages the day to day operations of the center.

  In the 1980s we saw the development and implementation of countless new policies, programs and procedures in the Fire Department, including:civilianization of the rank of Fire Inspector; introduction of the "Paramedic Engine" service; transition to computer-aided dispatch and record keeping; CPR training provided cost-free to citizens, installation of MDA life-safety alarms; daily standardized use of the Incident Command System; establishment of the Hazardous Materials Team; annual physical fitness/medical assessment; introduction of a hearing loss prevention program, including specification and purchase of rear-engine, enclosed-cab pumpers; reconstruction of three fire stations; transition to the County-wide 800-megahertz radio system; creation of a volunteer "work experience" program and initialization of the CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations) program. 1990 brought the implementation of the critical Incident stress debriefing program; the development of a "Environmental Protection Section" operating in the Fire Prevention Division; the move into technical specialties such as the Swift Water rescue team and the current development of a dedicated Urban Search and Rescue team (U.S.A.R). Most recently is the addition of Automatic External Defibrillators on allFire apparatus.

  Perhaps its most notable accomplishment during the 80 - 90's, the Fire Department acquired a "Class One City" rating from the Insurance Services Office, which served to dramatically reduce commercial fire-insurance rates for businesses located in the City. Anaheim is one of the only seven cities in the State to receive a Class One rating. The 1980s contained its share of major fire-department incidents: most notably the "Ball-Euclid" fire of April 1982, which originated early in the morning of April 21, during an extreme Santa Ana wind condition, and which eventually consumed over 50 buildings and 500 apartment units that were nearly all covered by flammable wood shake roofs. A total of 118 fire companies from departments throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties engaged the wind-driven conflagration, which was only extinguished after a late-afternoon break in the winds. This fire would prompt legislation banning non-fire-retardant roofs in Anaheim and in many other cities.

  Other notable incidents of the decade included the "Gypsum Canyon" wildland fire which occurred that same year, and the 1985 "Larry Fricker" Fertilizer Company fire which served as a "rite of initiation" for the Department's newly formed Hazardous Materials Team; this incident lasted four days and forced evacuation of approximately 10,000 persons from the area surrounding the site.

T  he 1990s brought in a new set of challenges, the Fire Department responded to such notable instances as Firestorm of 1993, where wildland fires ravaged the entire Southern California basin from Santa Barbara to San Diego. As construction methods change so do the type of fires we respond to with frequency. The 1990s brought numerous center hallway constructed apartment fires and hazardous material incidents such as the Mobil Oil tanker fire of 1997 that closed the eastbound 91 freeway for approximately 10 hours.

  The 1980s was a decade of professional growth and accomplishment for the Anaheim Firefighters' Association (AFA). The Association affiliated with the International Association of Firefighters in 1983, and became Local 2899. Its membership strengthened as a labor group and emerged with a fortified commitment to benevolent activities. In 1981 we saw the birth of the Annual Catalina Sailboat Race. In 1983 the Union and the Fire Department jointly initiated use of MDA Life Safety Alarms for the elderly and invalid in Anaheim. The Firefighters started their first year of participation in the MDA "Fill the Boot" program in 1984, where firefighters collect donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In 1985 the members of "Firefighters for Christ" from Anaheim and other departments traveled to Mexico to assist the residents of that earthquake-ravaged country. 1986 witnessed the birth of the "Hose Bowl" Charity Football Game, as well as the initiation of the "Caroling for Cans" program - a Christmastime drive conducted jointly with the Anaheim Police Department to collect food for needy families. In 1987, the AFA hosted the I.A.F.F. sponsored Redmond Symposium on Firefighter Health and Safety, which was comprised of four days of information-sharing in areas of current concern to firefighters from across the nation. In 1988 the AFA participated for the first time in the 'World's Greatest Working Truck Show", a charitable event which benefits the Crippled Children's Society (and they would then go on to host this event at the Anaheim Stadium in 1989 and 1990); 1988 was also the first year in which the Association operated its "Haunted House" fund-raiser, where a portion of the proceeds go to aid the senior citizens and homeless families in Anaheim. Also, in 1988 Anaheim become involved with the annual Dr. George Fishbeck "Burn Relay" to benefit the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (an event that raised over $300,000 in 1989 and that was participated in by over 60 California fire departments). In through the 1990s the Firefighter's association has continued it's community involvement by participating in "Paint Your Heart Out", an event that assist's low-income families by painting their home. In 1997 a new fundraiser was started. "Santa in the Hills" is a holiday fundraiser that brings a full time Santa to the East End of the city at the Anaheim Hills Festival shopping center. The theme of the event is the "North Pole Fire Department" and offers photos with Santa, the opportunity to "dress up" in real firefighters' equipment and even ride on an antique fire engine. Proceeds from this event benefit community programs that the Firefighters Association participate in and also helps many local charities such as; The Boys and Girls Club, The Senior Citizen's Center and The Muscular Dystrophy Association to name just a few. As we move through 1998-1999, the Anaheim Fire Department continues to be community active in a big way. Risk Watch teaches children how to be safe in a variety of different ways whether playing outside or being around household items in the home, Risk Watch has proven to be a valuable tool in educating the children of Anaheim. Speaking of education, The Anaheim Fire Department is one of the few in the nation that has received a grant from the National Fire Protection Association to perform "Learn not to Burn". This valuable program teaches school age children how to fire safe. Another extremely valuable program available in the City of Anaheim is "Heartsmart". This program offers free CPR programs to citizens who have had a family member suffer a heart attack. In looking back over the years, much has changed in the fire service during the past twenty-five years, and the members of the Anaheim Fire Department are proud to have had the opportunity to help shape the changes which have improved our service to the Community. We welcome the challenge to continue this "Tradition of progress" during the next thirty years and beyond.