History of the Long Beach Fire Department
Scope and Content
Title: Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Collection,
Collection Number: Consult repository.
Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum
[20.295 linear ft]
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Archives and Special Collections
Archives & Special Collection
University Library, Room G-145
1000 E. Victoria Street
Carson, California 90747
Phone: (310) 243-3013
Negatives and photographic prints documenting the history of the Long Beach Fire Department. Included are
images of the department from its earliest days in the early 20th century through to 1971. Images focus upon
department personnel, apparatus, fires, and fire prevention. Also includes photographic prints and negatives
which document the history of the city of Long Beach, including documentation of the March 10, 1933 earthquake
and documentation of early drilling activities including major fires in the Long Beach area.
Language: Collection material is in English
There are no access restrictions on this collection.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives
and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical
materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
[Title of item], Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Collection, Courtesy of the Department
of Archives and Special Collections. University Library. California State University, Dominguez Hills
Donated by the Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum in 2009.
Collection processed by Veronica D'Aquino and Erin Kurinsky, 2010.
History of the Long Beach Fire Department
The city of Long Beach was incorporated in 1897, and shortly thereafter, a group of citizens formed the
first Volunteer Fire Department and elected Brewster C. Kenyon as Captain. After a 1905 fire destroyed the
Long Beach Pavilion, a $30,000 bond was issued by popular vote to build a central fire station as well as
provide equipment, including fire alarm boxes, a steam fire engine, a hose wagon, and a hook and ladder truck,
as well as a team of horses to pull the newly purchased trucks.
In 1906, the first official fire station (Station No. 1) was built at 210 West Third Street. The department
was headed by Chief Joseph E. Shrewsbury and Assistant Chief George Craw, with a few men hired to be trained as
firemen. The regular firemen were assisted by "Call Firemen," who would be paid per fire fought. In 1907, the
department purchased its first motorized fire trucks. In 1908, Station No. 2 and Station No. 3 were opened,
and Station No. 4 was opened in 1910. In 1916, Chief Shrewsbury was killed in an automobile accident while
responding to a fire call (which ultimately turned out to be a false alarm), and George Craw replaced him as
the city's second Fire Chief.
In 1917, in response to the city's growing population and the increase in the number of fires, the Fire
Prevention Bureau was established. In 1920, the department hired additional full-time personnel and ground was
broken on two additional fire stations, Station No. 5 and Station No. 6. Between 1924 and 1929, and additional
six stations were built throughout the city.
Oil was discovered in the Signal Hill area of Long Beach in 1921, and the oil industry swiftly descended on
the city to begin drilling operations. The early oil fields were extremely dangerous places. Due to a general
disregard for safety, and the fact that oil derricks were built using wood, the oil fields were particularly
susceptible to fires. The first major oil fire occurred at the Fisher refinery in 1924, which was followed by
the Alamitos fire in 1927.
On March 10, 1933, a 6.3 earthquake occurred, within an epicenter located a few miles off shore from Newport
Beach. This devastated Long Beach and many surrounding cities. Several fire stations (Stations No. 1, 5, 7,
and 9), along with many other buildings including Polytechnic High School, were destroyed in the quake, and a
few firemen died as a result of injuries sustained. Another major oil fire, the Richfield Oil Refinery fire,
occurred in June of that year, and was most likely caused by residual damage from the March earthquake.
Following the earthquake, the city went to work building new stations to replace those destroyed, as well as
adding additional fire stations and increasing the number of personnel employed by the department. In 1938,
the department moved to install "Talk Alarm" receivers in various stations, which greatly increased the
effectiveness of the department by allowing identical information to be received in all stations, thus reducing
errors in responding to the wrong address on alarms. In 1942, the city acquired its first fire boat, the
"Charles S. Windham." The decision to invest in fire boats proved a good one in December 1945, when a large
fire took place on Pier 1 at Berths 51, 52, 53, and 54. The fire, which was the most disastrous in the city's
history, burned for several days, though fortunately no casualties were recorded. In 1964, a new drill tower
and Fire College opened to train the many new fire fighters needed to service the expanding city.
The Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum was founded in 1980 by Herb Bramley to document the history of
fire fighters in Long Beach and to restore historic fire engines. The museum is currently housed in the
building which originally housed Fire Station No. 10, and also contains an extensive collection of fire
fighter's tools and equipment, as well as log books used by the department throughout its history.
Scope and Content
The Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Collection consists primarily of negatives documenting
the Long Beach Fire Department's history and activities from 1906 to the early 1970s. The negatives are primarily
4x5" black and white film, through there are some negatives of additional size, including 5x7", 2½x2½", 3½x5½",
and 35mm, mostly black and white with a few color negatives. There is also a collection of photographic prints,
which document both the history of the Long Beach Fire Department, as well as some of the early history of the
city of Long Beach. These photographs are of varying size, with the majority being 8x10" prints.
The negatives are arranged numerically, and are primarily in chronological order. The negatives are all
filed under serial numbers originally assigned by the Long Beach Fire Department, and those numbers have largely
been retained in the collection. The serial number is followed by digits representing the number of negatives
and prints which are included per set. Each group of negatives is housed within one or more acid-free
envelopes, and negatives which have been digitally scanned are housed separately from those which have not been
scanned. Scanned negatives are indicated by an "S" on the envelope. There is a small collection of
nitrate-based negatives, which are stored separately from the general collection due to their inherent
Photographic prints have been arranged topically, and were assigned an inventory number during processing.
Digitally scanned prints are housed separately from unscanned prints. Those prints that are copies of negatives
in the collection are housed in two additional boxes, and their inventory numbers correspond to the serial
numbers of the negatives from which they were printed.
The Fire Museum maintains prints from the original negatives and a great deal of scrapbooks.
The collection is separated into 15 series: Apparatus, Car Collisions & Traffic Accidents, City
Departments, Drill School & Demonstrations, Fire Prevention, Fire Stations, Fires, Funerals, Ladies Auxiliary,
Miscellaneous, Mutual Benefit & Union, Parades & Publicity, Personnel, Site Inspections, and Tests.
The series were assigned according to the Long Beach Fire Department's subject index ledger, and negatives and
prints which were not assigned a series designation in this ledger were assigned one during processing which
corresponds to the Fire Department's series descriptions.
Aside from providing insight into the history of fire fighting in Long Beach, this collection explores the
evolution of life in Southern California from the early 1900s through the 1970s. In documenting the activities
of the fire department, the photographs in this collection also documents the people residing in the city of
Long Beach: the homes they lived in, the cars they drove, the businesses they established, and their general
way of life. In addition, the collection provides pictorial evidence of the human impact on the environment in
the city of Long Beach, particularly as it pertains to the oil industry, which was a major influence on the
growth and development of the city. Some striking photographs of the sea of oil derricks blanketing the
landscape of Long Beach can be viewed in this collection.
Information regarding the collection has been entered into the following fields:
- ID number
- Representing the ID number assigned by the Long Beach Fire Department to negatives.
- Box Number
- Box number in which the negative or print is housed.
- A descriptive title of the image. This field also includes the names of any personnel pictured, unless
the list of names is too long to fit into this field, in which case names are entered in the notes field.
- Series description assigned to the negative by the Long Beach Fire Department.
- Date the original photograph was taken.
- Any additional information about the prints, including names of personnel which do not fit into the Title
Arranged in 15 series:
- Series I. Apparatus (1906-1971, n.d.)
- Series II. Car Collisions & Traffic Accidents (1923-1970, n.d.)
- Series III. City Departments (1948-1971, n.d.)
- Series IV. Drill School & Demonstrations (1940-1971, n.d.)
- Series V. Fire Prevention (1920-1971, n.d.)
- Series VI. Fire Stations (1906-1969, n.d.)
- Series VII. Fires (1906-1971, n.d.)
- Series VIII. Funerals (1916-1964, n.d.)
- Series IX. Ladies Auxiliary (1948-1970)
- Series X. Miscellaneous (1840-1971, n.d.)
- Series XI. Mutual Benefit & Union (1944-1970, n.d.)
- Series XII. Parades & Publicity (1906-1971, n.d.)
- Series XIII. Personnel (1904-1971, n.d.)
- Series XIV. Site Inspections (1948-1949)
- Series XV. Tests (1948-1969)
Apartment houses--Fires and fire prevention.
Commercial buildings--Fires and fire prevention.
Fire departments--California--Long Beach--History.
Fire departments--Equipment and supplies.
Fire departments--Public relations.
Fire ecology--California--Long Beach.
Fire engines--California--Long Beach--History.
Fire extinction--California--Long Beach.
Fire fighters--California--Long Beach--History.
Fire fighters--Training of--California--Long Beach.
Fire prevention--California--Long Beach.
Fire stations--California--Long Beach.
Housing--Fires and fire prevention.
Human ecology--California--Long Beach.
Oil fields--California--Long Beach.
Oil fields--Fires and fire prevention.
Ships--Fires and fire prevention.
Social ecology--California--Long Beach.
Traffic accidents--California--Long Beach.
Catalina Island (Calif.)
Long Beach (Calif.)
Long Beach (Calif.)--History--20th century.
Los Angeles (Calif.)
Long Beach (Calif.).--Fire Dept.
Images of America: Long Beach Fire
. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.