National City Department History
The National City Firemen’s Club, a volunteer organization was formed on September 10, 1887. In its early stages the organization suffered from internal conflicts, mostly political, as did most early volunteer organizations. However, the National City Firemen’s Club survived through the years and is known today as the National City Fire Department.
All fire equipment, consisting of hose carts and a hook and ladder rig, were all drawn by manpower and were housed in a building at the corner of 16th Street and Taft Avenue. The other hose cart was located in a building at 8th Street and National Avenue. In 1910 the first fire station was built and was located at 13th Street and National Avenue. This original station served the City as a fire station until 1954. It continued to serve as a city hall and police station until it was torn down in 1966 to make way for the new Civic Center.
The National City Firemen’s Club became incorporated on April 27, 1911. On April 6, 1912 the City purchased it’s first motorized fire apparatus, a Seagraves pumper that carried 1,200 feet of 2 ½ inch fire hose and one 40-gallon tank of chemicals. An 80 horsepower air-cooled engine could propel the apparatus at speeds up to 40 miles per hour.
In 1922, the City hired its first paid Fire Chief, W.S. Carvell. He continued as Chief until February 8, 1924, at which time James Bird was appointed Fire Chief.
In 1925, a new Seagraves 750 gpm Class B pumper was purchased and the original 1912 pumper was retired. The 1925 Seagraves pumper is no longer in service, but is occasionally used for parades and social events. The 1925 Seagraves is housed at Station #34 and is a fine example of antique apparatus and a tribute to the care and maintenance given it by generations of Firefighters.
By 1935, the Department was fully paid and no longer relied on the services of many dedicated volunteers. The Department’s staffing was a grand total of five Firefighters. During the 1940’s more staff and equipment were added, in keeping with the growth of the City and the need for additional resources.
In 1950, J. Clifford Bailey was selected as Fire Chief and new programs and policies were implemented. For the first time uniforms were required. Chief Bailey was also instrumental in establishing the Fire Science program at San Diego Community College. This program was the beginning of higher education for Firefighters, and has become essential in order to do the job of a modern day Firefighter. Chief Bailey distinguished himself and the Department by becoming the President of the California Fire Chiefs’ Association in 1965.
In 1954, a new fire station was constructed at the corner of 16th Street and "D" Avenue. This station served the City as the Headquarters Fire Station until it was demolished in October, 2003 to serve as the site of the new Station which was dedicated in June, 2005.
The "New" Station 34 was completed in 2005. This Headquarters station replaced the previous Station 34, which was built in 1954. Station 34 is located at 16th and "D" Ave, next to Kimball Park. The station houses Engine 34, Truck 34, Battalion 57, Rescue 34 and two reserve apparatus. The station itself boasts of over 19,000 sq ft and four apparatus bays. Also at this site is the state of the art training tower and drill yard. The station has a community room and a separate history showroom for R-1, our completely restored 1925 Seagrave Fire Engine.
Inside the station are all the modern day amenities one could ask for in a Fire Station. Each Firefighter, Engineer and Captain on duty has their own rooms upstairs, complete with brass fire pole. Two separate workout areas with new fitness equipment. A large day room with leather recliners and Plasma TV. The kitchen is a cook’s dream! The outdoor patio has a built in BBQ.
The 5 story-training tower was the first of it's kind in San Diego County. It includes a propane live burn room, ventilation prop, search and rescue props with zero visibility capabilities, a "Denver" prop, forcible entry props on the doors and numerous repelling stations throughout. The drill yard has it's own water pump and tank with a complete runoff recovery system.
Feel free to stop by and take a look!