Atascadero Fire will celebrate its 100th anniversary of service on Saturday

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. – On Saturday, May 7, Atascadero firefighters and community members will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city’s fire department, Atascadero Fire & Emergency services.

The ministry said all members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend.


Atascadero Fire & Emergency Services provided the following information in a press release:

This year, Atascadero Fire & Emergency Services is celebrating 100 years of fire service in its community. The Atascadero Firefighters would like to honor those who have gone before them, recognize all who currently serve, and express gratitude to those who will carry on the legacy into the future.

In 1915, fire protection for Atascadero was initially provided by volunteers who responded to the scene of the fire and were paid $1.00 per fire. The volunteers were led by Lew Cole, who owned his own fire engine and was only hired during the summer months. Community leaders had also purchased a Model T Ford truck fitted with a soda tank to respond to fires during those early years.

From 1915 to 1920, initial fire protection was provided only during the summer months, by Lew Cole (pictured above) who had his own fire truck.

The Atascadero Fire Protection District was officially established in 1922 in direct response to a 5,000 acre wildfire that struck Eagle Ranch. Charles Adams served as the first fire chief until 1929, when he died suddenly of heart failure at the age of 30.

Charles Adams (pictured above) served as the first fire chief from 1922 to 1929.

The first fire station was built in 1927 at 5815 Traffic Way and included living quarters above the engine compartment where the fire chief resided. This building still exists today and can be recognized by the unique arches of the engine compartment. The Fire District originally served a population of 3,000 and seven square miles.

The first fire station, located at 5815 Traffic Way, was built in 1927. Pictured above is Harlan Finch, who served until 1936 as the third fire chief.

One of the first devices purchased by the Fire Protection District was an REO Speedwagon that carried ladders, 490 gallons of water and 800 feet of hose. This same fire truck was recently located and purchased by the Atascadero Firefighters Association with the intent of rebuilding it and possibly using it for future community events.

Engines in front of the old fire station 1 – (Photo dated 1948)

As Atascadero continued to grow in size and population, a larger structure was built to replace the first station in 1952. At the time, the fire district consisted of two full-time firefighters and 21 firefighters standby, handling approximately 100 service calls annually. The new fire station was located just down the street at 6005 Lewis Avenue and remains Fire Station One to this day. Several modifications have taken place over the years to accommodate increases in staff, growing awareness of safety issues, and the expansion of fire services in the community.

The new and current Fire Station 1, located at 6005 Lewis Ave, was built in 1952.

The Atascadero Fire Protection District disbanded in 1979 when the department became an official part of the newly incorporated city. The Atascadero Fire Department included a staff station and nine firefighters. The population at the time was about 14,000 with 14 square miles of town to protect. Service calls had grown to about 600 a year.

Atascadero Fire augmented medical services to the community in 1984 by providing at least one Advanced Life Support (ALS) trained firefighter on fire response apparatus, referred to as a paramedic. Previously, the highest medical training firefighters had received was Basic Life Support (BLS), the equivalent of EMT skills. The expanded ALS skills offered by paramedics today include intravenous access, administration of life-saving medications, cardiac monitoring with interventions and more.

In 1986, Fire Station 2 was built at 9801 West Front on the south side of town. The station was built in conjunction with the Bordeaux apartment development, which greatly increased the need for closer firefighting resources to adequately service the rapidly expanding South Atascadero community. During this period, the Department saw its numbers increase, which now included two staff positions and 12 firefighters. The population had grown to 19,000 with 26.7 square miles to protect, with an average of just under 1,000 annual service calls.

In 2016, the department officially changed its name to Atascadero Fire & Emergency Services to better reflect the variety of security services provided to the community. Currently, Atascadero Fire & Emergency Services protects a population of 30,000 and 25.6 square miles of the city. The staff includes a fire chief, a battalion operations chief, a risk reduction battalion chief, an administrative assistant and 18 firefighters. Over 3,000 calls for service occur each year and include medical aids, public aids, traffic collisions, hazmat incidents, technical rescues, wildland fires, structure fires and more.

Charles Adams (pictured right) served as the first fire chief from 1922 to 1929.

Atascadero Fire & Emergency Services has a long and storied history of public service and community engagement. “As this year marks the centennial of our humble beginnings as the Atascadero Fire Protection District,” says Fire Chief Casey Bryson, “we would like to express our gratitude to those who have gone before us and to those who will follow in our footsteps of public service to the community that we love and that many of us call home.


The department said if you would like more information regarding this press release, please feel free to contact Atascadero Fire and Emergency Services at 805-461-5070.

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