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LAFD Historical Society W


hen I joined the LAFD in 1959, William L. Miller was the Chief En- gineer. As the city was growing, the


Chief was expanding the department to main- tain an adequate level of protection. The fol- lowing is an excerpt from a speech Chief Mill- er gave in 1961 marking the 75th Anniversary of the LAFD. I think you will find his vision of the department interesting and remember that was 51 years ago.


DIAMOND JUBILEE ADDRESS The following is the text of an address given by William L. Miller, Chief Engineer of the


Los Angeles City Fire Department at the Dia- mond Jubilee Celebration, marking the 75th anniversary of the City Fire Department, held on March 8, 1961 at the Biltmore Bowl


Remembrances of events that trans-


pired 75 years ago are important, for from such beginnings of a fire service for a little city than spanned some 30 square miles, there has grown the Los Angeles Fire Department of today (1961), protecting the lives and pos- sessions of 2 1/2 million people; inhabiting a metropolis of some 459 square miles. Tonight we celebrate 75 years of


progress of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Because of its protection our loved ones, our homes and our businesses are safer from the ravages of fire, explosion and panic. There are those present who have in


a few short years seen this city grow from a sprawling country town to the nation’s larg- est city in area, rapidly approaching second in population and for decades the most colorful and progressive. We have seen its orchards and grain


fields transformed into great industrial com- plexes and subdivisions; its swamp lands con- verted into airfields and harbor facilities, rank- ing among the busiest and best in the world. We have seen the development of great communi- cations, transportation and industrial systems; a vast network of highways; a water and power supply from the high Sierras and the Colorado River; public utilities and public works without parallel.


Each of these great developments


has brought to our city its inherent hazards. Because of adequate fire protection, contin-


ued progress in all these fields has been and is possible. Without adequate fire protection, our civilization would destroy itself, for each day it creates new hazards with new discoveries and new processes. In these 74 years our city’s popula-


tion has multiplied over 70 times. This virtual explosion in population has required hundreds of additional schools; hundreds of thousands more homes, tens of thousands new businesses, great factories, research facilities, hospitals and entertainment centers. It has demanded fantastic increases in fire protection. In short the challenge to the Fire Department has been unprecedented. Our current five-year expan- sion program exceeds all combined efforts in the Department’s history. Citizens of Los Angeles have made


possible the excellent fire fighting facilities of today. City officials, civic leaders, the press and the electorate have consistently supported efforts of the Fire Department to meet its chal- lenges. They have never been willing to accept second-class protection for their lives and their property.


The story of progress in fire protec-


tion parallels the city’s growth. In the early Pueblo of Los Angeles, the fire engine was drawn by hand, until horses were provided. The gasoline engine, replacing the horse, marked


LAFD ChieF engineer & generAL MAnAger WiLLiAM L. MiLLer - TAking A Look BACk To 1961 Submitted by Frank Borden • Director of Operations, LAFDHS


a great new era in our civilization. From the protection of a few small adobe buildings in a rural village, we have rocketed into the age of space; into a world of nuclear power; into a complex of scientific developments--that can spell progress--when controlled, or disaster if not controlled. Today the fire fighting forces of our


city stand in bold contrast to the humble be- ginning of the early pueblo. Three powerful fire boats--manned by firemen trained in ship- board and waterfront fire fighting--protect our city’s 35 miles of ocean frontage, its acres of wharves, docks and piers, with additional mil- lions of dollar value in ships and cargoes going to and from all parts of the world. But a few months ago a great fire at


one of the piers threatened the very existence of our vital harbor. Only through excellent tactics, highly trained manpower and the best firefight- ing equipment was the holocaust held to the pier of origin. In recent years, multiple alarm fires


have occurred in ocean liners, tankers and flammable liquid tank farms within our har- bor. Each time the damage has been confined to the area or vessel of origin and the harbor has been saved from total destruction. Each success proved the value and economy of main- taining a first-class fire fighting force.


chieF miller on the runninG BoarD oF tank 71 with sinGer/actor Dennis Day at the wheel on Fire service Day 1959, a Day miller instituteD in 1956.


May 2012 • 49


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