A brief history of the North San Juan Fire Department
November 6, 2012
The volunteer fire department got its start in 1862, when the citizens of North San Juan contributed funds and labor to build a reservoir for the town — thus making a local fire company possible.
Two hose cart companies were organized that year.
When the fire bell rang, men from the hose cart companies would run for their carts and pull them into position by hand. Pressure from the reservoir was high enough that no fire engine was needed to pump the water.
The motto in the old days was “Pick up your bucket and run,” whenever the phone call for volunteers was received.
Many fires were extinguished using nothing more than buckets of water and rags. The department also used to be responsible for burning the dump once a month, cutting grass and burning brush.
The North San Juan Volunteer Fire Department filed its official bylaws in April 1954. Two months later, the department purchased its first fire truck, Little Red.
The whole community pitched in to raise the money — $2,500 — for the used truck, holding a series of benefit dances and dinners.
Little Red was parked outside Pete’s Place, a grocery, bar and meeting hall, which remained the meeting place for the fire department until the Fire Hall was built.
Once the first fire truck and an old surplus tanker were acquired by the department, training by the volunteers began.
Dinners and dances to raise money for the department were held at Twamley Hall, which burned down in 1959.
The first pancake breakfast fundraiser was held in 1961; the flour for the pancakes was donated by the Sheriff’s Office.
In later years, the event became associated with Mother’s Day and was renamed the Scotch Broom Breakfast.
The first Fire Hall quilt project was organized in 1977 and the quilt raffle became a much-anticipated event.
During the 1980s, the cost of operating the department rose and a sudden jump in insurance costs brought a financial crisis.
The solution was to create the North San Juan Fire Protection District, which became official in 1986; that
same year, voters approved a uniform parcel fee to benefit the district. Prior to that, the department was funded by membership dues and fundraising dinners.
In 1988, the community was devastated by the 49er fire, which was sparked by an illegal debris burn on Highway 49 and Birchville Road.
The fire was the worst blaze in Nevada County history; no lives were lost, but two homes were destroyed in the district.
North San Juan firefighters were on duty for six straight days, working in French Corral and Penn Valley.
A community coalition was formed in 1989 and helped remodel the Fire Hall and construct a truck bay. The North San Juan Firefighters Association was formed in 1991.
A district office was constructed in the Fire Hall in 1992 and the district acquired its first paid employee.
A new station in French Corral was built that year, and the North San Juan Fire Auxiliary adopted its first set of official bylaws.
In 1993, a state law was passed that enabled the return of already collected property taxes to the district. In 1994, the district bought its first new fire engine.
The headquarters fire station on Tyler Foote Crossing Road was built in 1996.
Information dourtesy of the North San Juan Fire Auxiliary