Department History

Front of SMFD

On January 21st, 1921 a defective flue sparked a devastating fire in the Sierra Madre Bakery located on Windsor Lane. At the time, no organized Fire Department existed within the City of Sierra Madre, and residents relied on the assistance of the Pasadena and Monrovia Fire Departments. On the morning of January 21st, the Monrovia Fire Department responded to the call for aid and arrived after 30 minutes. The Pasadena Fire Department was unable to respond for several hours.

Seeing the need for a local fire agency, residents of Sierra Madre organized the first Volunteer Fire Department. At the Department’s inception, over 50 residents petitioned for membership, until total volunteers grew to over 200 members. Membership was eventually limited to only 20 active members, all of whom had to live and work in town. In the 1950’s, membership expanded to include 10 auxiliary members.

Throughout the 20’s and 30’s, the Department became an organized force in the community. The fledgling Department planned activities to encourage recruitment and volunteered their services to many events in town. Members of the Sierra Madre Fire Department were involved in many regional Firefighting groups, and were even present for the founding of the California State Firefighters’ Association. The Sierra Madre Fire Department is the only department in the State of California to maintain 100% membership in the CSFA since it was established in 1922.

In 1928, a new City Hall building was established at 55 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. In addition to government offices, it also housed the first official Fire Station. An air siren on top of the building was used to alert volunteer firefighters to an emergency. This siren was used and tested daily until August 1940, when it was replaced by a Diaphone Fire Horn. In addition to replacing the air siren, the new horn was able to replace an alert system used by the telephone company's central switchboard by using a series of coded blasts to communicate the general location of a fire.

The City’s first EMS program was established in 1929, when the Volunteer Fire Department built a Buick First Aid Wagon out of a donated chassis. The rig was designed to be a combination fire truck, first aid kit, resuscitator and stretcher. The First Aid Wagon could be used as an ambulance as well as to respond to fires. In 1933, the Volunteer Fire Department responded to a request for aid from the American Red Cross after the Long Beach Earthquake. Sierra Madre personnel assisted the Long Beach Fire Department for 36 hours and administered aid to 75 victims of the earthquake.

Through the second half of the 20th Century, the Volunteer Fire Department went through many changes. The Department moved headquarters to the current location at 242 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. In 1973 the Volunteer Department enrolled two members into Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training at Pasadena City College. By 1976, six members were certified EMTs and were responding to over 300 calls a year. In the same year, seeing the need for more advanced care, the Kiwanis Club donated the Department’s first Basic Life Support (BLS) vehicle. In the mid 80’s the Volunteer Fire Department began recruiting women. And in 1987 the Department hosted the first annual Fire Prevention Festival.

In 1999 the Volunteer Fire Department contracted with the Verdugo Fire Communications Center for dispatch services. This membership added the Department into a mutual aid network that currently supports 13 agencies within the greater Los Angeles area. As a result, the Fire Department increased hiring standards to meet those of neighboring agencies as well as provide a higher standard of service to the residents of Sierra Madre. The Fire Department now required all potential volunteer firefighters to be graduates of an accredited Fire Academy, possess a valid State of California EMT license, and complete State of California Firefighter 1 requirements within 18 months of hire.

By the end of the 1990’s volunteer membership in the Department had begun to decline. By 2006, the City saw the need to hire a full-time Fire Chief to supervise the functioning of the Department. One year later, the Department hired a full-time Paramedic Coordinator to oversee the new Paramedic Program.

The Paramedic Program debuted on June 1st, 2007. Sierra Madre was the last city in Los Angeles County to have its own paramedics. Seeing a need for advanced medical care within the community, the Fire Department developed a Paramedic Program based on the model created by the La Habra Heights Fire Department. The Fire Department employed part-time Paramedics to operate an Advanced Life Support (ALS) rescue ambulance and provide a higher level of care that can include cardiac monitoring, intubation, IV therapy, and administration of medication.

By 2012, the Fire Department had employed 3 full-time Captains and 1 part-time Captain to oversee daily operational duties. In the same year, due to a decreased number of qualified Engineers, the Department created the position of part-time Fire Engineer. The Department employed a mix of Full-Time, Part-Time, and Volunteer staff to crew one Type 1 Engine and one Type III Rescue Ambulance.

In 2015, an automatic aid agreement was entered with Los Angeles County Fire Department. As part of the agreement, Sierra Madre would respond to incidents located within the Chantry Flat Recreation Area. Los Angeles County personnel would then automatically respond to all 1st alarm fire incidents within the boundaries of Sierra Madre. In the same year, Battalion Chief Services were contracted to the Cities of Arcadia and Monrovia. Prior to contracting services, 3 residents volunteered over 6,500 hours a year to the Department.

On June 13, 2019, the City acknowledged the Sierra Madre Professional Firefighters Association, L5216, as the designated bargaining unit.

September 1, 2019, marked the day the Sierra Madre Fire Department transitioned to a Full-Time/Career Department. It was by the devoted years of steadfast volunteers, and extremely devoted part-time personnel, that the department was able to achieve such a level of service to the community. And for this, we will forever commemorate those that came before us.

As a result of the recent transition, on January 1, 2020, the Sierra Madre Fire Department entered into an Area C Unified Response trial period. This trial period was in place for six months. The trial allowed the department to demonstrate its capabilities with regard to inter-operability within Area C, and neighboring agencies.

July 1, 2020, the Sierra Madre Fire Department was fully accepted into Area C Unified Response. This milestone in the department’s history now expands the amount and availability of personnel, as well as, equipment from twelve additional departments that can be used daily for assistance, and without delay. We are pleased to be part of such a valued resource to our residents, businesses, and visitors.