"First in Danger
and Always Ready"
This inscription, engraved on a silver trumpet presented to Engine Company No. 3 in 1853, a token of appreciation, perhaps best describes Sacramento's gallant volunteer fire department as a whole.
As almost every other city whose beginnings were of tents and wooden structures, fire was a constant threat to early Sacramento. Destroyed in part or entirely by numerous conflagrations, cities and towns of lesser fortitude and determination would have vanished.
But Sacramento was determined to survive and call went out to form a volunteer fire company to fight back. The call was answered, and Sacramento claimed the honor of having organized the first fire company in the State of California when Mutual Hook and Ladder No. 1 went on line in February of 1850. It was soon followed by Confidence Engine Company No. 1, March 1, 1850, Protection Engine Company No. 2, March 22, 1851, and Sacramento Engine Company No. 3, March 27, 1851.
Each of the fire companies was made up of 60 to 65 men and by 1860 there were 5 pumpers and two or three ladder companies manned by over 400 volunteers. The volunteers raised money for house furniture, equipment, uniforms and for their "Cemetery Fund" by staging benefit dances, parties, concerts and picnics. One picnic in 1867 yielded $1200 for the cemetery fund.
The State Legislature passed an act to establish a paid fire department Sacramento's Volunteer Fire Department would continue to serve with valor and distinguish itself until October 1, 1872, when it was declared out of service.
If these men were to speak they might say, "Remember that as you are, so once was I, and as I am, you will be."
George King, Retired Engineer
The Firemen's Plot donated by the Sacramento City Council to theVolunteer Fire Department on June 23, 1858, a memorial to the city's gallant firefighters.