Most FD's in Marin were once fully volunteer, including San Rafael, with the exception of a few, including Hamilton AFB, Presidio Army bases in Southern Marin, San Quentin, and Skywalker Ranch. While most have transitioned to full-time career staff or combination, some still are fully volunteer. Most likely they always will be, due to being in rural areas without sufficient funding for career personnel. In addition, low call volumes don't justify full-time staff. Did you know that 69% of the roughly 33,000 FD's in America are volunteer? They protect roughly 60% of the population, typically in communities of less than 5,000 people.
This week we have posted the history of the Muir Beach Volunteer FD, a proud and successful organization that has a very close working relationship with the Marin County FD, Stinson Beach FD, and Southern Marin FD. Their annual Memorial Day Weekend Fund-raising BBQ is coming up in a month on Sunday May 24 - please consider attending and/or purchasing FD gear at the web site, http://www.muirbeachfire.com
Then Larkspur Assistant Fire Chief Bill Lellis relaxing in a recliner after a training burn at the old Hutchinson Quarry in east Larkspur in the late 1970's. This photo would end up in one of Bill's shows. The buildings were being removed in preparation for the Larkspur Landing Shopping Center development.
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." - Plutarch
I love photography, and have taken tens of thousands of fire service photos over the past 39 years. Many of these are now proving very valuable in both remembering and documenting our shared history. One of my early Fire Chiefs had inspired my long-time interest in taking pictures - William Lellis of Larkspur FD. Bill for many years put together an annual "slide show" for the Larkspur Association of Volunteer Firefighters annual installation dinner.
They were typically very funny, poking fun at our FD. For example, one year he used a live monkey from the San Francisco zoo, dressing it up as a fire chief complete with helmet and structure fire coat, holding a two-way radio. A friend of Bill's narrated the program acting as the monkey, shown commanding a fire scene among other activities. We laughed so hard our stomachs hurt...
The first "Bill" show I saw was in the late 1970's at what was then called "The Italian Athletic Club" in downtown Larkspur. It never occurred to me to wonder who had inspired Bill's interest in photography until attending another dinner. The annual Marin County Fire Chiefs Installation Dinner often includes special guests. California State Fire Marshal Ronny Coleman was invited to one of the events in the 1990's, held in Corte Madera. During the program portion, Bill Lellis rose and thanked Ronny for helping to inspire him in photography in the 1960's, when Bill attended the Fresno Fire Training Workshops where Ronny was an instructor.
I had no idea of this connection, but now it all made sense. I learned that Ronny had a huge collection of photographs that continues to grow every year to this day. Today all three of us continue to take and share photos. As they say - "The fire service is a small world...", thanks Bill and Ron! - Tom Forster
Dewey rocks! We really appreciate help in discovering the past in the Marin County Fire Service. A perfect example happened a few days ago when West Marin Historian and Author Dewey Livingston shared an article he found on the formation of the Olema Volunteer FD. It is posted on the Olema VFD page under former FD's on our site. We had met with Dewey last year and asked for his help on our project. Olema was one of the many Marin FD's that we barely knew existed. Now we know more, thanks to Dewey. Learn more about West Marin History by visiting the Jack Mason Museum in Inverness, www.jackmasonmuseum.org, or by picking up a copy of some of his books, two of which are pictured below. Point Reyes Peninsula was co-authored with Carola Derooy. Thanks Dewey!
Ron Nelson was a Lieutenant for Larkspur FD in 1975, and would later become Chief of the Burney Fire Protection District in Shasta County. Visit our Awards page to read his story, written by his good friend and retired Larkspur Chief William Lellis.
Read about his rescue of a truck driver from rain swollen Corte Madera Creek, and his subsequent award for heroism from the California State Firefighters Association.
Our Blog announces new site content, and gives the context of the topic and it's relationship to fire service history. Written by Bill Lellis & Paul Smith