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San Francisco replaced its last steam engine in 1922, although there had been gasoline-powered buggies for chiefs as early as 1906. Replacement of the horse-drawn steamers was swift and sure. By 1925, when this article was published, there were no horse-drawn steam engines left in the Department.

Man’s Four-Footed Companions
Have Disappeared from the Department

Photo of Fire Station 20 in San Francisco on the day in 1915 when motorized apparatus replaced the horses. FOLLOWING the period of the volunteer Fire Department came the romantic age of the horse-drawn apparatus. The man-drawn fire engines, with pumps operated by men, the hose reels, and the hook and ladder trucks of the early Pioneer days are now only to be seen in museums, to be brought out on state occasions.

The age of the horse-drawn vehicles brought an entirely new element into the life of the Fire Department as it was originally organized. The apparatus became heavier and more massive. The steamer supplanted the power supplied by the citizens of the earlier period. Man’s wonderful companion, the horse, was trained to race to fires with almost human sagacity, in its efforts to assist in curbing the terrible fire fiend. These noble animals tore to the fires in a frenzy almost as great as in their wild state they would have fled from them.

At one time the San Francisco Fire Department had 450 horses. The stables, the enormous amount of feed, their shoeing, medical care, pasturage and other needs necessitated a new order of things. All these in turn have been supplanted by the motor-driven apparatus. Hardly a horse is left to the Department of all the hundreds that once served the municipality. Most of them have gone the way of all living things, while a few are still eking out a comfortable old age in some of the City’s less strenuous departments.

Hardly a vestige of the horse-drawn period remains in the City. It has disappeared even more completely than the earlier hand-drawn apparatus which was light enough to be housed and kept as souvenirs. The massive steamer is no more. Gasoline has taken the place of coal. The motor has driven the horse from the field of activity in man’s behalf.

From: Municipal Record
City and County of San Francisco
October 15, 1925

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