In the Beginning
In 1956, the Marina Fire District was formed as well as an all-volunteer department, replacing the service formerly provided by the California Division of Forestry, located at Castroville. At that time, the population of Marina was just under 3,000 and the new department answered to a three man elected Fire Board.
The first fire truck was a 1941 Marmon Harrington Ford purchased by donations contributed by the citizens of Marina in 1956. It was parked and kept ready outside the General Store/Post Office at the NE corner of Palm Avenue and Highway 1. Fire calls rang at the Volunteer Chief’s home and simultaneously, in the homes of three Marina women who relayed the information to available volunteer fire fighters. This system worked adequately but not ideally and by 1958 the need for a fire station was apparent. That year property housing the present station was donated by the Marina Grange. With a station in mind, the citizens of Marina donated money toward the purchase of a fire truck from the California Division of Forestry.
Marina's first fire engine was a 1941 Marmon Harrington Ford
The following year construction on the fire station building began. All materials were donated by local citizens – lumber came from an old hog farm and labor was volunteered. The station was one story and housed the fire truck and sleeping quarters for one person. A gas stove was provided for the cooking needs. Later that year, a paid full-time Assistant Chief was hired who worked under the direction of the Volunteer Fire Chief. Engine #731, a 750 GPM American LaFrance pumper was purchased. A 24 hour work shift was established giving the new employee a one day on, one day off routine, with constant on-call backup coverage by Volunteers.
Marina Fire Chief Lester B. Waddel
Marina Fire Department's Fire Chief
In 1961, Marina’s population had grown to almost 6,000. Fire and first aid calls increased proportionally. To provide the service needed, the Board hired two full time firefighters. With an employee staff forming, the Board decided to make the position of Chief a salaried one. Marina’s first full-time Fire Chief Lester B. Waddel, was hired. The increased service provided for one need and created another as the station’s facilities were now inadequate and cramped for the growing number of employees. Plans for a second story began.
A Growing Department
In 1963, the second story was added to the fire station, providing sleeping, working and recreational quarters for a four-man department. Again, all materials and labor were donated by Volunteer Firefighters and members of the community. Engine #732 was purchased and arrived just as construction was completed. Through money generated from the Firefighter’s Ball “Resusci-Annie” was purchased to provide mouth to mouth resuscitation training. In 1965, a pickup utility truck was added as the Chief’s car and doubled as a first aid and rescue vehicle.
Resusci-Annie used to provide training in mouth to mouth resuscitation.
Marina's Volunteer Firefighters attend a parade in Seaside.
Expanding Emergency and Other Services to the Community
For the next several years the department and the town grew steadily, and the Fire Board increased from three to five men. The large number of medical calls resulted in more intense first aid training. Attendance of Emergency Medical Technician Courses were encouraged by the department. In 1971, a dune buggy “rescue vehicle” was purchased by the Volunteers and reconstructed by local beach buggy clubs to assist with beach rescues. Another acquisition that year was a 1928 American LaFrance engine bought by the Volunteers to be used in parades and for publicity events.
Again, the department found itself short of space. The retired engine was stored in various garages around Marina for two years, sat outdoors, deteriorating seriously. The dune buggy needed storage space and an equipment maintenance area was needed. In 1973, an addition was built to the back of the station to house supplementary vehicles and to serve as a lube room. The department then consisted of ten employees, a Chief, two Captains, two Engineers and five Firefighters. Over the next three years, advancement in rank gave us 3 Captains, Engineers and we added two additional firemen. In 1975, the department saw a need for a more concentrated effort towards fire prevention within the community and hired a full time Fire Prevention Officer who was also qualified as a Building Inspector. He received one year of training in the fire department and was then placed into full-time prevention work.
In 1976, on the first anniversary of incorporation, Marina citizens and local civic organizations presented the department with a new $20,000 Dodge Van rescue vehicle, #733. The gift was financed by donations raised through a locally broadcasted telethon and by public support.
In January 1977, the Chief’s Office was moved to the Civic Center complex on Hillcrest Avenue, sharing an office with the Fire Prevention Inspector whose duties also include that of Building Official.
Stepping Out As Our Own Department
The City of Marina was incorporated in 1975 and the police and fire services were integrated in 1978 to form the Public Safety Department. The department was broken down into Police and Fire Divisions and both operate out of the Public Safety building.
Over the last several years, the City has continued to grow and mature. As a consequence, it has begun the planning for its future growth and expansion, largely driven by the major development projects, both on and off of the former Fort Ord and its increasing public safety responsibilities in the existing developed areas on the former Fort Ord.
In examining this growth, City leaders and department staff have acknowledged that it had outgrown its consolidated public safety approach to delivery of public safety services. As part of the August 1, 2005 City reorganization, the department has initiated steps, and the City Council has approved actions, to allow for a process of separation of police and fire services into discrete operations.
The police and fire services were formally separated on July 1, 2007.
As part of the transition from the public safety model, the Fire Department now recruits and hires dedicated fire staff. The newly created fire department is in the planning stages for a new fire station, adding engine company personnel, command staff and received delivery of a new 1500 GPM Type One Engine in mid year 2007.
The Fire Chief and the Division Chiefs will be responsible for maintaining the high level of service citizens have come to expect, while successfully directing the department’s growth. The goal in this rapidly expanding community is to ultimately staff engine companies with three-persons and meet a four to five-minute response 90 percent of the time.
Currently the Department is authorized fifteen sworn personnel and one non-sworn support person.