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Timeline of Events

In 1893 and again in 1907 the Turlock area suffered two major fires that destroyed many of its existing downtown structures. To help combat future fire catastrophes, the merchants of Turlock banned together to buy the town's first fire pump and become part of the county's existing fire district. The year was 1908, Turlock was newly incorporated into cityhood and the population was beginning to grow.

In 1912 the county's fire district was dissolved and the new Turlock Volunteer Fire District was formed, with E.B. Osborn serving as the first fire chief. The city's first fire station was built on Front Street next to Hotel Carolyn and was used until around 1950.

Our First Engine

As Turlock grew so did the fire department. In 1917 a Model T pumper was purchased and in 1922 the department acquired both a pumper and the city's first ladder truck. A fire horn was installed in Central Park, which emitted a series of blasts from an air tank. These blasts were actually a code for a particular street intersection. Firefighters would hear the blasts, and use a codebook to determine where the fire was located. As newer technology was developed, a switchboard and a phone system were adopted allowing the on duty firefighter to alert other volunteers and get a better and quicker response to emergency calls.

In the early 1950's Fire station #1 was moved to Minaret & Hamilton and Fire Station #2 was opened on the corner of Florence and Orange Streets. In 1957, Carol Chittock, the first full-time paid Fire Chief was hired. Since then five fire chiefs have taken charge of Turlock's department, each implementing newer and better services.

Past Fire Chiefs

The Fire Department of Today

Today, the Turlock Fire Department has evolved into a highly skilled organization of full-time personnel. Engine companies are based in four stations strategically located throughout the city. Each station is staffed with a minimum of three firefighters who rotate working 48 hour shifts, 365 days a year; thus Turlock has Fire and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) protection at all times.

As you can see the Turlock Fire Department has come a long way since its early days of fire horns and Model T pumpers. Please take time to browse through the other sections of the web page to find out what the Turlock Fire Department offers today and what it hopes to offer its citizens in the future.

Timeline of Events

1893A major conflagration destroyed most downtown structures. The fire of 1893 started in the center of the block on Front Street (now Golden State Blvd) and burned both ways. Men & women fought the fire with buckets of water from windmill pumps. The fire only left two businesses standing (the Osborn Store & the Fountain Hotel) and destroyed the following businesses: a barber shop, a boot and shoe shop, a tin store, a doctor's office, a dentist office, a butcher, several saloons, three mercantile type stores, and several vacant buildings.
Several other large fires continued to decimate the town between 1893 and 1907.
1907The Turlock Hardware Company was destroyed by fire. The Turlock Hardware Company's new building burned to the ground and sparked creation of the Turlock Fire Department. On 11 p.m. that Sunday night, the church bell rang and men and women responded to the alarm. The crowd used buckets from the Osborn Store (located at First and Main) and the Shoreen Grocery and formed a bucket brigade. The Turlock Hardware Company stood at the site of the old Woolworth's building. The fire actually started in the back of Herman Bahn's meat market and destroyed it, the hardware store, and a real estate office. The fire was a $16,000 loss. Townspeople were so incensed at the futile bucket brigade battle against the fire (it burned to the ground in one hour) that they decided to form a fire department. The very next night they met at the Turlock Hall to take action. At the meeting, H.S. Crane suggested that each merchant put up $100 to dig wells and buy fire equipment. The vote carried unanimously.
1908Merchants banded together to buy a fire pump and a fire district was formed. The new fire commissioners traveled to San Francisco and bought a wagon mounted, Howe cylinder driven fire pump (mounted on a wagon body – see photo), a hose cart, and a chemical wagon. These pieces of apparatus were kept in Osborn's building at the corner of Main and Front. When the fire bell was sounded, people would rush to the store and pull the equipment to the fire, either by a horse team or by hand.

Turlock is incorporated.

Ed Osborn is elected Fire Chief.

Around this time a number of wells are built in the downtown area.

WATER - Wells were drilled at strategic locations in the business district. When the Turlock Hardware Co. rebuilt, a 5,000-gallon water tank was added for fire protection. A suction hose would be dropped into one of the five wells to bring water to the pump.
6-26-08A new fire bell is installed and put on a tower and used to notify volunteers when there was a fire.
1909The pump was tested using a well located near the E.B. Osborn store. The stream reaches twice as high as the tallest building in town, the St. Elmo Hotel (see photo)
1910The Minaret Street Water Tower was built by Chicago Bridge & Iron Works and placed at Well #1. It was part of the original town water system. These water towers were built to add water pressure for better fire streams
2-2-10A large fire struck the businesses between the St. Elmo Hotel and Sahlberg's shoe store. The businesses destroyed were three real estate offices, the Turlock Tanning Co. office, a tailor shop, a pool hall, a rooming house, a veterinarian's office, and a meat market. The fire started in the tailoring shop when the janitor started a fire in a wood stove and the pipe was loose in the flue. The top fell out and toppled into a rack of clean clothes and ignited them. The janitor burned his hand badly while trying to extinguish the fire. He ran for the fire bell and only woke a few people. A writer was staying in the rooming house and was awakened by the bell. He then realized that the fire was next to the rooming house and roused the boarders and got them outside. The volunteers arrived with the fire equipment and worked to stop the fire. They were able to save the St. Elmo by using water from a 15,000 water tank located on its roof. There was a 25' lot in between the businesses on fire and the shoe store, which helped in confining it to the range. The Union Block building was built to replace the destroyed buildings and continues to stand today.
1912The county fire district was dissolved in 1912 and a new city volunteer fire department was formed, with E.B. Osborn as Chief (his store served as a temporary fire station).
(The first fire station was located on Front Street next to the Hotel Carolyn near the parking lot next to Juras Pizza sometime around 1915).
The Orange Street water tower was erected.
7-16-12The Turlock Fruit and Juice Co. fire
9-30-12The Denair-Gall Building caught fire. There was much praise for the Turlock Fire Department in stopping this fire.
1914Around this time was the first mention of “Fire Trucks”. Probably the two Osborn Store delivery trucks used for hauling hose and equipment to fires.
1915First mention of Fire Alarm Pull Boxes being set up around town.
First mention of the fire station being moved from its current quarters (Osborn store) to the Carolyn Garage.
Fire escapes began to be checked and required for all businesses.
1-10-15The Christian Church fire occurred and took 4 hours to extinguish; this was the 2nd fire in a week.
6-21-15The Wonderland Theater Fire. The fire started in the operating room and was extinguished by the TFD. But the fire had spread to a space between the ceiling and roof and the building burned to the ground. The building was a total loss.
3-15-16Another Gall-Denair building fire occurred. A stove fire did heavy damage to rooms on the second floor. (see photo). This was the first fire that the Osborn delivery trucks were used as "fire trucks".
1916The Fire Bell is sold to Ceres.
Members received $1.50 per call.
In the fall of 1916, a fire muster was held which included a water fight, a hose laying contest, and a parade for the Melon Carnival. Modesto Fire attended.
1917New FD quarters are secured in the Carolyn Hotel complex.
A Gamewell fire alarm system was purchased and installed. The city was split into districts to which the horn could activate codes. A general alarm was one bell. Three bells rang at 8a.m. and 8p.m. for testing purposes.
Cards were printed for TFD members that showed the locations of fire hydrants.
5-4-17The final fire occurred in the Denair-Gall building, completely destroying the old nuisance.
1918The 1917 Model T pumper was purchased.
5-21-20A fire occurred at the Carolyn causing $10,000 in damage.
1922The 1922 LaFrance Pumper is purchased. This unit was nicknamed "The Frog". The engine was equipped with mechanical brakes on the rear wheels which required all of the engineer's strength to push the brake pedal down to stop it. When this occurred the engine would hop all over the roadway like a frog.
9-11-24The Tidewater Warehouse Fire occurred.
1925In late 1925, the firehouse was remodeled.
1925(from TFD minutes) Rules posted in firehouse dormitory: Rule #1 - No smoking in bed. Rule #2 - No greasy shoes in dormitory.
An Atwater-Kent radio was purchased for the firehouse.
1926The 1927 LaFrance Ladder truck was purchased (see photo).
1-1-29A fire at the Broadway Grocery and Broadway Sweet Shop occurred, causing $40,000 in damage.
1926The Sacred Heart Church Fire occurred, completely destroying the structure.
9-20-32The Union Oil Company fire occurred after a gasoline tanker overfilled the underground tanks and ignited. Flames blazed skyward upwards of 70 feet. The heat was so intense that firefighting efforts were directed at saving adjacent buildings and a creamery across the street.
12-22-32A large fire occurred at the Knudsen (Fred) Warehouse Packing Sheds on North Front Street. Firefighter Lavon New was injured and had to be rescued. He suffered critical smoke inhalation. The fire caused $15,000 in damage and took nine hours to bring under control.
7-21-33The Osborn and Son store fire occurred causing $75,000 in damage.
4-4-44Jack Freitas became the city's first paid firefighter.
7-15-44The Snow White Laundry fire occurred. It was gutted by a flash fire at 4:45 a.m. and caused $20,000 in damage.
7-25-46The Turlock Theater fire at Broadway and Olive occurred, causing a large amount of damage.
1950Fire station #1 was moved to its new quarters at 271 Minaret.
Fire station #2 was built at the intersection of Orange and Florence streets.
3-9-53A fire at Pickett's Garage and Pete's Market on S. Broadway occurred causing $65,000 in damage.
8-12-54The TFD Rescue Truck and Rescue Squad went into service. The money was donated by the Red Cross and the unit was built by George Tallman. A 12 man rescue squad was established with Captain Jack Berlau heading the group. The squad quickly registered 28 saves in its first five years. The rescue squad consisted of 13 paid and volunteer members trained in rescue skills.
2-2-56A fire occurred in the Bank of America building at Center and East Main streets (see photo). The fire was difficult to control because it was in hidden crawl spaces between the second floor ceiling and the attic. First floor stores such as Richard and Chambers were damaged when their roofs caved in.
1956Turlock Fire Department members

1956Joel Nikolauson was named Fire Chief after the retirement of Lloyd Cunningham.
Assistant Chief Phil Lundquist died, several months after having a minor heart attack at the Bank of America fire.
1957Carol Chittock was hired as fire chief from Santa Ana fire department where he was a captain. He was the first full time fire chief.
3-9-59A large fire destroyed the Tri-K Enterprises plastics factory on Columbia Street. A portion of a house next door was burned. There was $75,000 in damage to the structures.
3-30-59A fire occurred at the Greyhound Depot on N Center Street causing $5,000 in damage.
5-60A large fire occurred at the sales yard located at Highway 99 & Fulkerth road. Multiple fire departments responded and a large warehouse was destroyed.
5-61A fire occurred at the Monteith Tractor Building. A discarded cigarette caused major damage to the front of the store.
11-21-62A fire completely destroyed the Delhart Mattress Company. The fire was fought by the Turlock, Turlock Rural, Denair, and Stanislaus County fire departments. The building was located under the overpass at F Street and damages totaled $70,000.
8-22-63A fire occurred in the Turlock High School music building. There was $70,000 in damage due to floor lacquer touched off by a pilot light.
9-63The Stockton Box fire occurred causing $500,000 in damage. The fire destroyed the Hume Company receiving station and machinery storage building, the Stockton Box Company plant, and the Roy Day warehouse. The cannery to the south was saved and the old grange buildings. The fire caused sparks and embers to rain down on nearby neighborhoods, causing several small roof fires. Over 200 citizen volunteers helped fight the largest fire in Turlock's history.
1-15-64The Snorkel ladder truck was purchased for $38,000 and put into service.
7-24-64The Turlock Fruit Co. fire occurred. The fire at Broadway and B Street started in a lidding machine area and caused $500,000 in damage to the structure and 12 boxcars (see photo). Five firefighters went to the hospital with heat exhaustion. Low water pressure kept the snorkel dry due to industry in the area operating at full swing, and many residential sprinklers being used on the hot day.
7-23-65The B and B Superette fire occurred at 705 East Main Street. The building was the old Turlock High School paint shop.
9-8-65A fire occurred at Heaslett's Auto Parts Exchange on First Street, causing $100,00 in fire losses.
12-1-66A large fire struck Monteith Tractor, located on South Broadway and Market streets, causing more than $100,000 in losses. The Snorkel was used to help save Harders Print Shop.
12-67Bike licensing began at Fire station one.
10-10-67A fire occurred at the Bright foods warehouse, causing $400,000 in damages.
5-21-68A fire occurred at the Christofferson Warehouse, causing $35,000 in damage to the warehouse and its contents.
12-17-68A fire occurred at the Carolyn Hotel. Other businesses involved included the Grand King Restaurant and the Carolyn Tavern. Turlock Rural assisted and the fire was brought under control the next day. The building was declared a total loss with nearly $200,000 in damages (see photo).
1-16-76The Turlock Theater fire occurred causing the entire building to be destroyed.
12-77Chief Larry Hughes was hired after Chief Chittock retired.
12-30-77The Lewis Plumbing fire occurred, causing extensive damages.
6-8-78The Brentwood apartment complex fire occurred, completely destroying most of the new apartment buildings being built.
1979The Turlock High School fire occurred, nearly destroying the historic building (see photo). An arsonist set fire to the center wing of the main building. Firefighters Richard Lutz & Roger Leedom were trapped for a short period of time before finding a way out of the upper floors.
3-17-1980Fire heavily damaged Sabrina's Restaurant (formerly the Pixie Pancake House) on N Golden State Blvd.
1981City Fire Alarm “pull” boxes were removed. Electronic pagers were used by volunteers to respond to emergencies.
5-81The new Fire Station 2 was opened on South Walnut, replacing the Orange street station.
3-15-86Chris Carlson was hired as Fire Chief after Chief Hughes left in October of 1985.
6-17-86The Buy-Way Market fire occurred, completely destroying the business.
12-20-86The Turlock Hotel fire on W. Main street occurred, heavily damaging the old hotel and businesses below.
1991Chief Chris Carlson left for La Mesa fire department.
1992Robert Carlson was promoted to Fire Chief.
1996Chief Robert Carlson retired.
Mark Langley becomes Chief of the Turlock Fire Department.
1997A large fire occurred on West Main street, destroying three businesses, including the old Woolworth's building. Multiple Stanislaus County fire agencies responded as mutual aid. The fire burned throughout the night and was declared out the next day. The fire was later determined to be arson and a suspect was apprehended, tried, and jailed.
5-24-99Seven months after a large fire struck the old Emanuel Hospital on East Canal Drive, a second fire struck, damaging the old building beyond repair. In 2000, the building was razed.
2001The city purchased a Pierce 105 foot aerial ladder truck.
2003Major renovations were made to the fire department drill grounds. The ventilation prop was completed and ground was broken on the training burn room.
4-22-05The old Tri-Valley building fire occurred. Most of the vacant South Golden State Boulevard cannery was destroyed. The south portion of the warehouse was saved by firefighter's efforts and the help of a fire wall. Multiple fire departments responded to help fight the large blaze.
7-18-05Rainbow Fabrics, located at 134 West Main Street, was severely damaged by fire. A faulty electrical cord was to blame for the fire's cause. The Turlock Fire Department was able to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent downtown buildings.
11-23-05The Carnegie Arts Center fire occurred. The historic building, built in 1916, was gutted after thieves started a fire in an attempt to cover up a burglary. The fire was discovered just before 6 a.m. and declared out at 9:30 a.m. Multiple departments responded including Turlock Rural, Denair and Mountain View fire departments. The roof, contents and a new addition were destroyed. There is a current effort underway to save the remains of the historic building.
2006The old Turlock Fire Department museum building was torn down and construction started on the new Fire Station #1 (located directly behind the current Fire Station #1). The Turlock Fire Department hired seven firefighters. The firefighters increased staffing from two-person to three-person engine companies on over half of the department's companies.
4-30-2006A large warehouse fire occurred at 401 3rd Street. The warehouse was used for storing and processing almond hash. Although the 25,000 square foot building was a complete loss, multiple residences along S Broadway were saved. The warehouse was bordered by 3rd Street, C Street, D Street and an alley behind South Broadway. Among firefighters, this incident has come to be called the "C" street fire.
7-12-2006The Minerva's Fire occurred at 201 West Main Street. A transient started the fire in an outside storage unit. The fire spread into the main building through a freight escalator. Fourteen engines and more than 40 firefighters from Turlock City, Turlock Rural, Modesto, Ceres, Keyes, Denair & Westport fought the blaze. The building and contents were declared a total loss.
2-07-2007Matty's Market fire on West Main Street occurred
4-19-2007Matty's Market fire - A second fire occurred.
5-01-2009TFD became a fully paid department when the reserve firefighter division was discontinued.
5-28-2009The Red Steer fire occurred causing approximately one million dollars in damage.
6-16-2010The Yerena's Pallet Company fire occurred, also involving Brite Electric & Shehan's Transport Refrig at D & S. First streets. Initial estimates put the damages at $300,000.
6-30-2010Fire Chief Mark Langley retired after 14 years as chief and 30 years overall in the department.
7-01-2010Tim Lohman was appointed Interim Fire Chief.
3-8-11Tim Lohman officially appointed to Fire Chief.
7-1-11Three new firefighters hired through the SAFER Grant.
2-19-13The former Lactalis Cheese Plant fire completely destroyed the vacant plant after started a fire (and were later convicted). Three trucks (Turlock, Ceres & Modesto) controlled the fire defensively. Damage was estimated at $5 million.

There were three other structure fires reported (unrelated) that night after the start of the Lactalis Fire.
6-6-14Three new firefighters started after the 2013 retirements of fire Captains Chalupnik and Drumonde.
7-4-14Captain Mathew Seilheimer retired.
8-15-15Fire Chief Tim Lohman retired after 5 years as chief and 35 years overall in the department (3 as a volunteer and 32 years career).
8-28-15The Equip Church at Columbia & S Orange streets was destroyed by fire. Eight county agencies assisted. Damaged estimated at $270,000.
12-14-15Fire Chief Robert "Bob" Talloni hired as Turlock's 11th Fire Chief.

* Please contact Scott Wejmar at regarding any comments, inaccuracies, or additional Turlock Fire Department historical information. Of particular interest is photos and information regarding the first fire station located on Front Street from approximately 1915 to 1950.

For questions about the Fire Department, please contact:

Turlock Fire Department
244 N. Broadway
Turlock, CA 95380-5454
(209) 668-5580
Monday - Friday, 9AM - 5PM
Closed daily 12PM - 1PM

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