District History

When the brass bell that hung in the first firehouse in Menlo Park on Merrill St. rang, the 17-member, all volunteer fire units sprang into action. originalfirehouse.gif

A horse drawn wagon, Menlo Park Hose Co. No.1, was pulled from the small wooden structure at the end of Santa Cruz Ave. to await a team of horses. Then the race was on from the livery stable or one of the City's two express companies, as the first ones there were paid for the use of their horses to haul the hose wagon to the fire.

On September 16, 1915, a note of order was restored to the community when a group of 62 residents petitioned the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District was formed. The boundaries of the fire district eventually followed lines similar to those drawn for the original incorporation of Menlo Park. A historical document of descriptions, the boundaries, and poll list of the Fire District Election in 1916 can be viewed on this provided link. On March 23, 1874, Menlo Park became the second incorporated City in San Mateo County, although only for a short time. The purpose was to provide a quick way to raise money for road repairs. This incorporation, which included Fair Oaks, (later Atherton) and Ravenswood, (later East Palo Alto) lasted only until 1876. Menlo Park attempted to reincorporate in 1923, and the boundaries would have included what is now Atherton. Citizens in Atherton had other ideas and beat Menlo to the County Courthouse by only minutes and submitted their own incorporation documents. Menlo Park delayed their submission and the City was not incorporated until 1927. East Palo Alto remained as an unincorporated county area until 1983 when the City of East Palo Alto was formed. The Menlo Park Fire District is older, therefore, than the three cities that it protects.

Three years after the District was formed, an electrically operated siren was installed in the City's new firehouse, located in a brick building at 1077 Merrill St. The building was used as the main firehouse for the District until 1955, when operations were moved to the present location of Station 1 at 300 Middlefield Rd.

The District's first Fire Chief was Frank P. Roach, a former volunteer. The District's first paid firefighter, Leslie Brown was hired in 1918 on a demanding schedule of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for very meager wages. His dedication paid off later when he was promoted to Assistant Chief. In 1919 Fred Whitaker became the first paid Chief. Whitaker was a retired captain from the San Francisco Fire Department who brought with him an extensive background in fire-fighting techniques. The paid staff remained at two until 1928 when a third firefighter, Elmer Hara, who also rose to the rank of Assistant Chief, joined the payroll. That same year marked the start of the 44-year career of George B. Carter. Before his retirement in 1972, Carter served through the ranks all the way to his promotion to Chief in 1955.

chiefcarter.gifWhen Chief Whitaker left the District in 1932, Thomas F. Cuff, a former Berkeley Fire Department Captain, assumed the Chief's position. He headed the department until Carter's promotion in 1955. The Menlo Park Firefighters' Association has named their antique fire apparatus "Old Tom" in his honor.

In 1972 the Chief's position was filled by Robert Whitney who, like Carter, ascended through the ranks, starting his career with the District in 1946. He was succeeded by Vince Del Pozzo in 1978, another career Menlo Park firefighter.

Following Chief Del Pozzo's retirement in 1984, Winfred Baker won the top position, but served for less than a year. Several interim Fire Chief's (Allen and Korff) served the District until Jack Bennett was hired as Chief in 1985 after completing a career with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, retiring as Assistant Chief.

Bennett served until his retirement in 1992 and was replaced by Rick Tye who was Chief of Marysville Fire Department prior to his appointment in Menlo. Toward the end of Bennett's term and during Tye's, the District began training paramedics. Menlo Park Fire was the first fire agency in San Mateo County to have paramedics on each fire engine beginning December 19, 1994 at 8:00am. Engineer paramedic Michael Cochrane administered the first Advanced Life Support treatment to a pediatric patient in respiratory distress 4 minutes into our operation at 8:04am. Deputy Chief Charlie Fasso served as interim chief for a year following Tye's departure in 1997. In November of 1998, the Board of Directors hired Chief Miles Julihn, who retired in 2002. In January 2002, the Fire District Board appointed Deputy Chief Ed Greene to the position of Acting Fire Chief. In September 2002, the Fire District Board appointed Paul S. Wilson as the Fire Chief. Chief Wilson began his tenure November 4, 2002. On August 22, 2005, Menlo Park Fire District appointed Douglas Sporleder as the Fire Chief. Chief Sporleder served with the with Santa Clara County Fire Department for 38 years and retired in December 2001 as the Fire Chief.

Over the years, the Menlo Park Fire District has grown significantly, and stations were added as communities formed. The District boundaries grew to cover approximately 17 square miles by the 1940's. Recently, much of the marshland and bay water area has been added to the District's responsibility, making for a total of 29 square miles. The District is covered by 7 fire stations, the 7th being added in the eastern portion of the City of Menlo Park in 1997.