Corte Madera Fire Department History
Corte Madera Fire Department History
Rustic life becomes more suburban
Residents moving over from the city clamor for
up-to-date public safety services and better utilities
Hose carts for firefighting,
stored in garage on the hill.
Summer cottages were eventually joined by
homes built for year-around use.
Permanent residents were eager to have the same amenities they had enjoyed when they
lived in San Francisco.
Before long, some of Corte Madera's rustic, rural qualities gave way to the impetus for street lights, sanitary sewers, graded roads, and water mains for household and fire protection use.
Utility services, opposed by those who were against taxation and/or urbanization, had enough support to win approval at special elections held to set tax rates and elect residents to run the various service districts.
Up to this point, household water came either from wells, springs, or was purchased when the water wagon came around. In fact, the notorious James McCue's first entrepreneurial endeavor in Marin County involved selling water from his wagon in 1863.
By 1910 there were enough year-around residents to make it profitable for someone who owned a source of water to lay pipes and sell it through a local distribution system. Several major landowners had established private water companies, channeling springs on their properties into large reservoirs. Springs filled these reservoirs with a sufficient supply to serve all those residents not fortunate enough to have their own wells.
The Chapman Water Works produced a flow of
10,000 gallons a day from a tunnel .. Edgar Chapman had dug in
hills behind his home on Corte Madera Ridge. William Bradbury
built a large reservoir that was fed by a spring coming off
The purity and quality of Marin's water was so cherished by San Franciscans that they transported it across the bay in waterboats.
Eventually the Marin Municipal Water District took over all the smaller companies, extending
pipelines throughout the region.
A vigorous volunteer fire department was formed in 1908 and provided fire protection with a chemical engine and two hosecarts. One of the hosecarts was stationed adjacent to Mahood's Store, in a station erected for $214, and the other one was kept at Roberts' Garage on Redwood Avenue at Morningside. Corte Madera's first fire truck was a small Chevrolet Pope Hartford acquired in 1916.
Twelve years later, voters approved a bond issue to purchase an American LaFrance pumper.
At 500 gallons per minute, it was the pride and glory of the volunteer fire department in 1928.
The volunteers incorporated in 1930 and raised funds to build a new fire station to house the truck on the corner of Willow and First Streets (now Tamalpais Drive). For the next forty years, they provided virtually all of the fire protection to the town.
Members of the Corte Madera Volunteer Fire Department in
of Station No. 1, between
Mahood's and Holy Innocents church, about 1916.
Community needs at this time were overseen by elected directors of the local sanitary district,
fire conunission, road district, and school board, as well as by members of church groups and the many public spirited citizens who comprised the Corte Madera hnprovement Club, the Women's Club, and the small business community. ~
The Corte Madera Fire Department team had new baseball
when this photograph was taken in 1913.
Members of the department played teams from other towns on a
the corner of the marsh,
now the corner of Tamolpais Drive and PixleyAvenue. That was
spot where Dr. James McCue
had a race track where he exercised the trick horses featured in
Bill Nelson, shown here in 1966, was a member of the Corte
Volunteer Fire Department
for fifty years. He contributed to the life of the community in
ways, including leading the way
toward getting Town Park established. Both BillNelson and his
Frank served as chiefs of the
police and fire departments in Corte Madera.
Cards like this were distributed to every household, so that
fire whistle blew, everyone would know what part of town was
and could respond appropriately.
Volunteer firemen in 1931, at ceremonial groundbreaking for new
First fire truck at Station No.1, with Town dog Laddie.
Corte Madera Volunteer Fire Department members at groundbreaking
for new fire station at corner of First Street and Willow Avenue
New fire station at the comer of Willow Avenue and First Street (ramalpais Drive), constructed in 1931 with funds raised
by the volunteer firemen. The elected fire chief was a Town employee, and the Town leased office space for the chief from
the volunteers. The building housed the Town's fire engines until 1966, when a new public safely building was constructed at Tamalpais and Pixley.