A Brief History
The early morning calm in the village of Vacaville was shattered by a powerful earthquake on April 19, 1892. Estimated to be 6.4 on the Richter scale, it would lead to the incorporation of Vacaville as a town in just three months. The Town Trustees, recognizing the potential for further natural and human-caused disasters and acknowledging the lack of an organized fire company, passed City Ordinance No. 41 on July 25, 1895. This ordinance established an organized Fire Department as part of the town government. In 1908, the Department purchased its first hook and ladder truck from local vendors using funds raised by the community. On Independence Day in 1916, the Department got its first motorized pumper, a 53 horsepower Seagraves engine with 500 feet of first quality cotton hose and a fire siren for $6,000. The first firehouse was located on the site of the Town Hall. After the first firehouse was replaced with the Town Hall building, the Department shared that space, later moving for a time to the old Reporter building on Main Street. In 1958, Station One was built on Dobbins Street at a cost of $46,000. Station One relocated to South Orchard Avenue in 1996, while three additional Stations were built in the intervening years. During the past 120 years, Vacaville firefighters have continuously protected the community. Volunteer firefighters, working with paid employees, played an integral role in fire protection for the city and surrounding rural areas until 1981. In that year, the volunteer forces separated from the City and established a new fire district called the Vacaville Fire Protection District. Today, full-time career firefighters are members of the Vacaville Fire Department and continue the tradition of providing services to the citizens of the City of Vacaville and providing emergency medical services in the surrounding area.
Because of its climate, quality of life and its proximity to major metropolitan areas and freeways, Vacaville has seen tremendous residential, commercial, and industrial growth, with the population more than doubling in the past twenty-five years. As a result, the Fire Department has also experienced significant expansion since the late 1970s. The Department has a long history of providing medical care to the residents in and around Vacaville. Firefighters regularly responded to first aid and “resuscitator” calls in the 1960s and by 1971 the Fire Department had started transporting emergency patients by ambulance to the hospital in nearby Fairfield. Soon after the Fire Department began emergency medical transports, all personnel were trained and certified as EMTs. The Vacaville Fire Department was one of the first fire departments in the state to have all employees trained to that level, and has continued to certify all operations personnel as EMTs ever since. Due in part to the lack of a hospital in Vacaville, interest began to emerge in starting a paramedic program. To fund it, a grass roots effort was launched to pass a special property tax. Citizen activists, together with members of the Fire Department, campaigned hard to upgrade the level of emergency care and they met with success. In November 1976, the voters overwhelmingly approved the special tax measure. By July 1977, the Vacaville Fire Department was providing paramedic-level care, becoming one of the first fire departments in northern California to do so.
During the 1970s on duty fire fighters and volunteers built fire apparatus like water tenders and wildland (brush) units. In the early 1980s, the Department purchased its first truck and trained a crew of nine firefighters to operate the new unit. The Department purchased new rescues (ambulances) in the late 1990s and new wildland units in 2002. We now enjoy a state of the art fleet operating out of our four stations. Our fire stations are strategy located throughout the community. The Department is expecting up to two new stations due to the growth of the City in the next five years.
In 2003, our fire stations and apparatus have a new numbering system to make it easier to coordinate resources during regional incidents. For instance, our Station One became Station 71 and Engine 2 became Engine 72. If we are fighting a fire alongside Fairfield’s Engine 2, they are known as Engine 39 while we are Engine 72. That way, dispatcher information and incident commander instructions will be clear to both engine companies.
We continue to expand our fire and emergency services. 2001 brought more change with the addition of paramedic engine companies and the use of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). Our ability to combat wildland fire incidents increased with the addition of two Type III fire engines in 2002. We now operate out of four stations providing a full range of services. Our Operations Division is charged with providing all emergency response including fire, emergency medical services (EMS), hazmat, rescue, etc. Our Support Services Division provides the majority of our non-emergency services that include plan checking, fire and life safety education, fire investigation, public information, and a full range of clerical support.
As Vacaville is growing so is our fire department. In April 2015, construction started for the newest station, Station 75, located in the South Town area. Station 75 opened on May 16, 2016 at 8:00am and ran their first call at 9:05 am.
The Vacaville Fire Department has been faced with many challenges during its first 120 years. The people who served in the department during that time have worked hard to overcome problems and safeguard the community. Their legacy is the high quality department that Vacaville has today. In that tradition, the men and women of the Vacaville Fire Department are dedicated to meeting the challenges of the future.