About the Pasadena Fire Department

Pasadena Fire Department 2016 Information Sheet


The mission of the Pasadena Fire Department is to provide protection of life, property, and the environment from the effects of fires, medical emergencies, and hazards; we engage the community in our mission through progressive community outreach.


The members of the Pasadena Fire Department take pride in our commitment to professional service by maintaining our skills, knowledge and abilities. All members of the Department will conduct themselves in an ethical manner conforming to a moral standard of right versus wrong by treating each other and the people we serve humanely, decently, and honestly. We subscribe to the following values


Members of the Pasadena Fire Department will be accountable to each other and the community we serve. We accept responsibility for our decisions and actions.


As members of the Pasadena Fire Department, we strive for honesty and fairness in our dealings with our customers and each other. We are honorable to our profession and we inspire each other to maintain trustworthiness, openness and sincerity.


Pasadena Fire Department members will adapt to the ever changing needs of our community, the organization and the environment.

The City of Pasadena is located in the San Gabriel Valley. This area was once inhabited by the Hahamogna Indians. The name Pasadena comes from a Hahamogna word meaning “Crown of the Valley”. Pasadena was incorporated as a city in June of 1886. At that time, much of the area was covered with oaks and orange groves, with some of the City geography bearing names that reflect the past. Orange Grove Blvd., Oak Knoll, Oak, Los Robles Spanish for “the oaks”, and others maintain the City’s history for current citizens.

Horse Drawn Fire WagonAs Pasadzena grew, the need for fire protection grew as well. However, the event that triggered the formation of a fire department was a little known piece of history. In 1885 some boys threw a stone into a building, at the corner of Fair Oaks and Mills Alley, that was being used by Chinese immigrants as a laundry. The stone tipped over a kerosene lamp, which started a fire that burned the building to the ground. The only apparent reason that the fire didn’t spread to adjacent structures was the effort of one Johnny Mills, owner of the building, who fought feverishly to stop the fire’s growth. It is not clear why the area’s Chinese residents were blamed for the fire, although the shacks in the area were close together and run down, perhaps a fire hazard in themselves. In any case, the citizens started a small riot, and threatened the lives of many of the area’s Chinese residents. A deputy sheriff by the name of Tom Banbury stepped in and halted the riot, he made all of the Chinese residents leave the area by the next day.

Pasadena Fire Department TruckPerhaps considering the great Chicago fire of 14 years earlier, allegedly also started by a kerosene lamp (and Mrs. O’Leary’s cow), the City, with some urging by a Dr. H.A. Reid (later a noted local historian), realized that a Fire Department was needed. On October 8, 1887, after a delay to raise money, the City Trustees passed a resolution authorizing a Fire Department and the office of “Chief” was created. They allocated just over $1,000 to start the Fire Department. The first Fire Department was simple, at best. The City’s Blacksmith Shop built the first two pieces of fire apparatus, a hook and ladder rig and a hose cart. These were put into service on May 1 of 1888. They ran out of a temporary station on DeLacey, near the Wiley and Greeley’s Livery Stable, which provided the horses. 24 men were selected to be the Fire Department, with 12 assigned to each piece of apparatus.

Pasadena Fire Steam Engine 6The firefighters organized, and elected officers. John Mills was President, E.A. Russell, Vice President, J.D. Johns, Sec., H.G. Cogswell, Treasurer, C. Russell, foreman, J.D. Jones, 1st assistant, U.T. Monus, 2nd assistant. The firefighters elected Peter Steil as Chief, but the City Council refused to confirm him because he had been convicted of illegally selling liquor a month earlier, and was under a $150 / month fine. On June 19, 1888, the City Council confirmed the other elected officers, apparently not realizing that 18 members of the Department had quit June 16, 1888 under protest of Peter Steil’s non-appointment.

A tragic fire occurred 8 days after the regulations took effect, taking the lives of three of the Beaton family children and severely injuring Mrs. Beaton during rescue attempts. The Fire Department apparently took sometime to respond, and was severely chastised as a result, although the authors of some of the history books feel this might have been undeserved. In any case, the City decided to put in a more modern fire alarm system, and dispense with the bell on the church.

On December 3, 1889 the Department moved into its first permanent station on Dayton St. between Fair Oaks and Delacy. On January 1, 1890, the Fire Department purchased five horses from Mr. Richard Gird, of Chino for a total of $1,235.30. In the new station, stalls were rigged so that the horses, upon hearing the new alarm, would jump forward into the “traces”, and the harness would lower onto the horse, being secured with spring-type clamps.

The monthly salary in August of 1894 is as follows:

  • Fire Chief $15.00
  • Assistant Fire Chief and Secretary $ 8.00
  • Steam Engineer and Electrician $90.00
  • Stoker, Driver of Hose Cart $50.00
  • Driver of Engine $60.00 Foreman of Hose Company $ 5.00
  • Callmen $ 5.00
  • Foreman of Hook and Ladder & Treasurer $ 8.00
  • Driver of Hook and Ladder $60.00

On Easter Sunday, April 14, 1895, The Royal Raymond, Pasadena’s finest hotel (actually in South Pasadena) tested Pasadena’s best by burning to the ground in less than two hours. High winds were considered a primary cause for the conflagration. This was one of three major hotel fires prior to 1916 in Pasadena, the other two being the Maryland and the La Pintoresca. The Maryland Hotel fire turned out to be particularly difficult to extinguish, as a large natural gas line under the hotel continued to spew forth flame long after the hotel had, once again, burned to the ground. In spite of all efforts, the valve to shut off the gas could not be located until hours later, when it was found underneath a recently poured cement sidewalk.

In 1919, E.F. Coop became the Fire Chief, and instituted the two platoon system. Also in that year, Pasadena became the first City to do an aerial survey for the purposes of fire protection. One of the Department’s drivers, W.A. Fuller, helped to organize a new organization in 1923 called the California State Fireman’s Association, and was awarded the CSFA lifetime badge number 1 for his effort.

Chief Heutig retired and A.S. Turbett became the City’s second official Fire Chief. George Greeley was his assistant. Then, in 1901, A.M. Clifford (Photo on the left) succeeded Chief Turbett, with F.V. Hovey his assistant. In 1909, Pasadena bought a Seagrave chemical engine*, the first motorized piece of fire apparatus on the Pacific Coast, and only third or fourth in the United States. The Pasadena Fire Department still owns this engine, which was restored by members of the Department and it still runs.

Jimmy Bolz became Chief in June of 1943, becoming only the fifth official Fire Chief in 60 years. He was succeeded by, Stephen H. (Step) Edmonson in 1949, and he in turn by William T. Heidner in 1957.

In 1972, James Shern was appointed Chief. He had recently retired from L.A. City Fire as a Division Chief, and became the first black Fire Chief in a major California city. Chief Shern received many honors during his years of service in Pasadena, including being elected president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Chief Shern passed away in 1982, and had fire station 36, at 1145 N. Fair Oaks, dedicated in his honor in 1990.

Monty Ward was promoted to Fire Chief in 1981 on a temporary basis. He held the position until Kaya Pekerol became Chief on June 15, 1981. Chief Pekerol had served with the Department since December, 1968, and was promoted from his position as Administrative Chief.

In June 1995, Peter O. Pederson was appointed fire chief. Chief Pederson started his career with the Los Angeles County Fire Department in September 1957. He promoted through the ranks and held the position of Assistant Chief. With a distinguished career spanning 24 years, Chief Pederson pursued his goal and was appointed the fire chief of the Salt Lake City Fire Department in 1981 and led that department for eight years. After a 51/2 year hiatus Chief Pederson came out of retirement to be the fire chief of PFD until April of 1998.

In October of 1998 Chief Ernest Mitchell was hired after a lengthy recruitment process. Chief Mitchell had worked as fire chief for the City of Monrovia, and as a Battalion Chief for the City of Compton California. Chief Mitchell had a vast knowledge of the fire service, he currently holds the prestigious position as the president of the International Fire Chiefs Association. Chief Mitchell retired from the Pasadena Fire Department March 2004.

Dennis J. Downs became Pasadena’s fire chief on April 5, 2004. Prior to that, Chief Downs served as the fire chief in Ventura since 1994 and was with the Fresno Fire Department for 15 years, working his way up from firefighter to interim fire chief.

*The 1909 Seagrave Chemical Engine is currently on display at:

Fire Station 31, 135 S. Fair Oaks
Pasadena, Ca. 91101

Bertral WashingtonBertral T. Washington is the Fire Chief for the City of Pasadena. Born and raised in southern California, Chief Washington was appointed by the City Manager on December 15, 2014 after 20 years of fire service in Las Vegas, NV. Chief Washington has worked in all disciplines of the fire service including Administration, Disaster Management, Fire Command, Prevention, Community Relations and Legislation. Chief Washington has a Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Designation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) and has led the department to become accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

Since his appointment, the department has also improved its Public Protection Classification rating to Insurance Services Office (ISO) Class One. Only 32 fire departments in the country are both accredited and ISO Class One.

Chief Washington lives in Pasadena with his wife Cheri and two teenage children. He serves on various boards and committees including the American Red Cross San Gabriel Pomona Valley, First Tee of Greater Pasadena and Leadership Pasadena.

Chief Washington follows Fire Chief Calvin E. Wells, who joined the Pasadena Fire Department in 1979 and served in numerous positions during his 35-year career.



Fire Department Accreditation

The Center for Public Safety Excellence’s (CPSE) Accreditation Program, administered by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) allows fire and emergency service agencies to compare their performance to industry best practices in order to determine community risk and safety needs, evaluate the performance of the department, and establish a method for achieving continuous organizational improvement.

Accreditation is a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation model that enables organizations to examine past, current, and future service levels and internal performance and compare them to industry best practices. This process leads to improved service delivery.

Pasadena Fire Department was accredited by CFAI on August 2015, after preparing a complete evaluation of performance indicators divided into 12 separate categories that was submitted for peer review. The Department continues to perform assessments and evaluations to meet internal, national, and internationally recognized benchmarks to ensure a high quality of fire and emergency services in our city for residents, community members, business leaders, and city officials.

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The city of Pasadena and Pasadena Fire & Rescue are proud to announce our designation as a Class 1 City by the Insurance Service Office (ISO), the highest possible rating for a municipality. Class 1 represents exemplary fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria.

The Class 1 designation is determined by assessing the city’s ability to suppress fires, including facilities and practices such as the amount of personnel training, deployment of resources, the compliment of fire apparatus, the 911 dispatching system and the adequacy of the city’s water supply. A Class 1 city designation can also equate to lower insurance premiums for our residents and business owners depending on their respective insurance carriers.

Pasadena is amongst a select group of 132 cities nationally and 14 in California to carry a Class 1 rating from ISO.

Insurance Services Office (ISO) Designates City of Pasadena as a Class 1 City