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Top1887 to 1909

Templeton Hose Company No. 1

Leather bucket used for dousing fire. Circa 1897

The first mention of the need for a fire department was published in The Templeton Times March 5, 1887. The article stated, “There is an immediate necessity for fire apparatus. When a fire breaks out our people will see the folly of neglecting this essential precaution.”

On November 9, 1887 the newly formed Board met and elected “Hose Company No. 1” first Chief Engineer, Charles Minor Steinbeck.  The Board directed Chief Steinbeck to call a meeting of citizens on Monday evening November 14, 1887 at Knapp’s Hall for the purpose of enrolling members of the hose company.

The initial members (also known at ‘the boys’) of the Templeton Hose Company No. 1 included:  C.M. Steinbeck, Samuel Holstein, Joseph Bane, H.C. Whitney, E. Cook, C.E. Whitney, E. Griffith, D.M. Stull, J. Hurley, J. Stanton, H. Blackburn, E.C. Murry Jr.

Templeton’s Great Fire of 1898

The main business corridor of Templeton in the late 1800‘s was along Main Street between 4th and 6th Streets. In the early morning of September 30, 1898 a fire of suspicious origin started in the rear portion of Jim Goley‘s Saloon. As was the norm, all buildings were con-structed of wood, making any control of an established fire difficult, if not impossible.

The fire was detected by an early morning passerby at about 5:00am who alerted the town‘s people. Within minutes the fire had spread to other adjacent buildings. Eventually, nine prime businesses were destroyed including the Goley‘s Saloon, Claughton Restaurant, Berggren‘s Store, the Odd Fellows Hall, Andrew Hudson‘s Real Estate office, Whitney‘s Store, Post and Telephone offices, as well as Hans Peterson‘s Hardware store (which would later be rebuilt using brick and become Hewitt Hardware).

Formal Formation of the Fire Department

On April 12, 1909, the Templeton Board of Trade noted in their minutes the following: “Commission on Fire District reports boundaries laid and same ordered by the (San Luis Obispo County) Board of Supervisors.” This action affirmed the legal formation of the Fire

District. This was done to be able to assess and collect a tax to fund the newly formed fire department. The newly formed Fire District‘s Commissioners included, Carl W. Peterson,

40-gallon Stempel chemical engine

Joseph W. Eddy, and Benjamin B. Bierer. For nearly the next 70 years (until the formation of the Templeton Community Services District in 1976), the Templeton Fire Department would be governed by a Fire District Board of Commissioners.

On May 18, 1909 the first election to create a tax ($700 total) within the District was voted upon. (It is not known how the assessments were levied; the minutes of the meetings only provide the total amount.) On May 19, 1909 the election results were tabulated Yes-30, No-28. At this same meeting the Fire District Board ordered two 60-Gallon chemical engines from W.D. Walsh of Los Angeles. Costs were $390 each. By the July 31st meeting it had been determined to ‘nill and void’ the previous contract to W.D. Walsh and order two 40-gallon Stempel Chemical Engines. Costs were $350 each.

Top1910 to 1920

In January, 1910 the Fire Board appointed Albert Ralph Horstman as the Fire Chief.  Chief Horstman retained this position at least through 1924.  After the formation of the Fire District, the Fire District Board was able to hold annual elections to assess properties within the Fire District.  After the Chemical

Fire bell purchased and installed September 1910

Engines were purchased in late 1909, the Board’s next direction was to hire a Fire Watchman/Fire Patrolman.  It is unknown what the duties of the Fire Watchman/Patrolman were and when they were preformed.  It is believed this job was to patrol the town after nightfall to alert the community if he was to discover a fire.  It is also believed his job was to light and extinguish the town’s street lamps.

The first one hired as a Fire Watchman was J.W. Branden on November 1st, 1910.  His salary was $50 per month.  In March of 1911, William Rucklidge was hired to replace J.W.

Branden who had resigned from the position.  According to the minutes of the Fire District Board of Directors, Rucklidge held this position at least through 1920.

On March 14, 1910, a Fireman’s Ball and Supper fundraiser was hosted to raise money to purchase a fire bell, which was purchased and installed by September of that year.

Top1930 to 1940

In 1937 Don Stockdale became Fire Chief and a station was constructed to house the engine purchased from Atascadero

On or about 1937 the fire bell was replaced by a Hedberg Super Siren

In 1938 the Constitution and By-laws were adopted

Top1940 to 1950

In 1941, the fire department purchased a second fire truck from the Mack Truck Company. It was a 1934 Ford Truck with a front-mounted pump. The truck had been first owned by the Carpentaria Fire Department.

In 1943 firefighters began being paid 50-cents for each meeting they attended. The Fire Chief‘s salary was approved at $12 per month. By 1949 the salary had increased to $30.00 per month. In July 1948 Al Willhoit was appointed Fire Chief.

Templeton Firefighter loses life in fire

March 3, 1940 was the most tragic date in the history of the Templeton Fire Department. It was on this day that Lester Lowell Plumm lost his life and eight others were injured while battling a fire in a garage located at 91 South Main Street.

Top1950 to 1960

In 1952, Al Willhoit resigned as the Fire Chief. After being the Assistant Fire Chief for a number of months, Cecil Gambel was appointed the Fire Chief. However, the Fire Com-mission felt it was time that emergency calls been received via the telephone. As Chief Gambel did not have a phone, Noel Bennett agreed to be the Chief. The phone had a button attached to the base which activated the siren at the station (which alerted the town‘s firefighters.)

On March 3, 1958 the State Certificate of Existence was issued to the Department. This occurred fifty years after the Board of Trade established the Templeton Fire District. The District was number 159 in the entire State to receive certification.

Top1960 to 1970

In July of 1960 the new fire station was ready to occupy.

January 8, 1961 at 10:18pm, a fire was reported at the Templeton High School by the school‘s principal, Duane Bay. The fire department was given much praise for a quick response which limited damage to the school. Still, six classrooms, the Library, and Cafeteria were out of commission due to heat and smoke damage. The fire was deter-mined to have been deliberately set to cover up a theft of $15 from the school‘s safe.

In 1964, the Department received its new fire apparatus, a 1964 Ford often referred to as the “attack truck”.

In January 1965 the Department sold the 1934 Ford fire truck to E.C. Loomis for $500. The money from this sale, supplemented by department funds, allowed the department to purchase its first two-way Citizen Band radios.

Top1970 to 1980

In October 1974, the Fire District annexed property west of Highway 101. Also discussed for the first time by the Fire Commission, was a 911 emergency answering number. Additional fire phones were installed at Hope and Larry‘s Bar, Lloyd Holloway‘s home and Orphus Holloway‘s home.

The first full sets of structural firefighting turnouts were purchased in 1976. There were not enough purchased for every firefighter; the first firefighters arriving at the station for a call got to utilize the equipment. Until these were purchased Personal Protective Equipment consisted of rubber boots, Army field jackets and plastic or fiberglass helmets.

At 4:00 pm, Friday, August 24, 1979 the Templeton Feed and Grain Fire started.

On October 19, 1979 Dave Kaiser resigns as Fire Chief. At the time of Chief Kaiser‘s resignation he was paid $60 per month. Lloyd Holloway was appointed Fire Chief and Rod Hewitt as Assistant Fire Chief.

Top1980 to 1990

Templeton Fire Departments First Pager

In the early 80‘s the San Luis Obispo County Fire Department did not yet have a volunteer pool to augment its paid firefighters and the current State station on Ramada Drive could no longer house the County‘s engine. Templeton maintained an active core of fire-fighters. They also had available an open apparatus bay along the Crocker Street frontage. In 1982 an agreement was signed between Templeton and San Luis Obispo County which permitted a San Luis Obispo County Fire apparatus to be co-located at the Templeton Fire Department; the engine/station would become Station 32. This engine had full-time paid staffing and relied on the Templeton Fire Department firefighters for support, both within the District and in the areas served by the County Fire Department. In addition to the new pagers issued by Templeton, the San Luis Obispo County Fire Department issued a Plectron Alert Monitor to each volunteer who responded with the SLO County engine. This device operated much like the smaller personal pager and received ‘tone-outs’ on the State‘s Local Net. These were much larger devices and were kept at firefighters‘ homes, businesses, or vehicles.

Top1990 to 2000

This was a decade of many major strides for the Department.

1991 Ford F350 Built by Utah LaGrange. Cost $61,000. Had a CAFS system installed initially, but later removed

Due to the increasing responsibility and demands on the position, in 1990 the Fire Chief (Lloyd Holloway) became a half-time employee. In 1992 the position became three-quarter time.

A new mini-pumper/rescue was purchased in 1991 with the first Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS) in the County. The CAFS system proved unreliable and cumbersome and eventually was removed from the unit. (See Apparatus section, p. 57).

After 32 years of service, Chief Holloway retired in 1998. That same year, the Fire Department hired its first full-time Fire Chief (Greg O‘Sullivan). Chief O‘Sullivan was a career firefighter with 26 years of experience in the National Forest Service and municipal government. His position prior to Templeton Fire Department was Battalion Chief for the City of San Gabriel.

Top2000 to 2010

The decade started out with hosting a dedication/recognition event of Lester Plumm, a Templeton Fire Department firefighter who lost his life in 1940. Firefighter Plumm‘s wife, Velora Howard, and his only daughter, Edwina Plumm Nye, as well as many extended family members and friends, were in attendance. A plaque (donated by the Lion‘s Club) and a commemorative framed photo with the story of his death, was dedicated and now is housed in the fire station. (See full story in the 1940-1950 Decades chapter, p. 14.)

After nearly 30 years as a volunteer, Assistant Fire Chief Rod Hewitt became an employee of the fire department in 2006 to assist with the growing responsibilities of the department, including offering free installation, inspection and maintenance of all residential smoke detectors within the District.

After nearly 10 years as a tenant (occupying the living quarters at the fire station), San Luis Ambulance relocated to a location on Main Street. The living quarters above the station have been converted to a lounge/work area for members of the Department to congregate, study and workout in the mini-gym.

A milestone was passed on April 12, 2009. Templeton Fire Department celebrated 100 years as a formal fire district. (The idea for this book was inspired due to our centennial.) On May 23, 2009 over 150 firefighters, past and present, gathered in the park to recognize our ―100 years of community service. (see Centennial chapter, p. 46).