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The Depot Museum’s Fire Department exhibit was created as a special thank you to the brave men and women of our Volunteer Fire Departments who respond to duty no matter how big or little the call may be. The members of our Fire Departments take their duties very seriously. These humble men and women don’t do this for the recognition of the public, but as a service to their community, and for this we would like to show our appreciation. The Depot Museum’s display is a small way of saying thanks to each and every one of you.

Fortuna’s Volunteer Fire Department was formed on June 20, 1904, more than a year and a half before the City of Fortuna was incorporated. For over 100 years, the Department has been a crucial part of community life, not only through their essential fire-fighting and life-saving work, but also through fundraising events such as the annual Firemen’s Ball and Sports Day held in the early 20th century. In the 1920s the Volunteer Fire Department raised the funds to build the Firemen’s Pavilion in Rohner Park (housing the town’s skating rink), which they operated for decades until ownership was transferred to the city.

In 1913, the Humboldt Beacon wrote:

In its fire department Fortuna has an organization of which it may well feel proud, an organization which has been tested by fire and found capable of extinguishing conflagrations which have threatened to destroy the entire town …

While the department has been called out to extinguish a number of minor blazes, it was the valiant work performed at the Lane House fire in June, 1909, and the more recent conflagration on June 12, 1911, that convinced even the most cynical of the efficiency of the department.

Only the firemen’s good work coupled with the town’s splendid water system saved the business houses on the south side of Main street the day the Lane House caught fire.

The same can be said of the entire business section, when in June, 1911, the department was called upon to extinguish, not an incipient blaze, but a raging conflagration…

For a town the size of Fortuna a splendid lot of apparatus is on hand for fighting fire, the principal pieces being a combination hook and ladder chemical engine, two hose carts, one hook and ladder, one two-wheeled hand chemical, together with a number of small hand chemicals.

Two thousand feet of hose, seventeen hydrants advantageously placed in the various sections of the town, and a water pressure of 74 pounds to the inch, a bunch of 64 fearless fire laddies and we’ve completed the story of Fortuna’s Fire Department.

Artifacts displayed in the Depot Museum’s Volunteer Fire Department exhibit include early 20th-century photographs of the Volunteer Fire Departments in Fortuna and Scotia, firemen’s helmets from the 1920s and ’30s, early 20th-century fire extinguishers (including a set of glass globes which could be thrown at a fire and released fire-suppressant chemicals when they broke), and the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department membership certificate of L. L. Bryan, one of the founding members of the Department in 1904.

This photograph displayed in the Depot Museum’s Volunteer Fire Department exhibit shows the Fortuna firefighters in 1908. Sitting in the front row behind the white dog is L. L. Bryan, a founding member of the department who was one of the early Fire Chiefs. The imprint of “Keir’s Studio, Fortuna, Cal.” is visible at the bottom right.

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