Santa Clara was incorporated in 1852. In early 1854, a fire destroyed the home of a Methodist Minister. His young daughter died in the fire. Citizens recognized the need for organized fire protection. Some citizens banded together and purchased an old hand pumper with some buckets and created the Tiger Hose Company on October 5, 1855. This was the start of the Santa Clara Volunteer Reserves.
A committee appointed a team on June 19, 1856 to go to San Francisco to purchase a state-of-the-art engine and hose for the company for no more than $1500.00. The new engine arrived on July 1, 1856. It was built by the Columbian Engine Company of San Francisco.
On July 5, the Tiger Hose Company was renamed the Columbian Engine Company No. 1.
By 1863, the town of Santa Clara began to grow with the founding of the Santa Clara Brewery. The town's people realized the need for more fire protection and, in 1872, the Hook and Ladder Company was formed. With continued growth and several large fires, in 1877, Mission Hose Company and Hose Brigade were formed. Three years later, Tanner Hose Company was formed. According to statistics, losses to fire had averaged less than $500 in 1895, which speaks well of the efficiency of the companies.
October 6, 1875 saw the adoption of the constitution for the Columbian Hose Company. The Babcock Fire Brigade was formed also in 1875. Tanner Hose Company was formed in 1878.Hope Hose formed in 1880 with the disbanding of The Columbian Engine Company. Babcock disbanded and reformed as the Hose Brigade in 1881.
Between the years of 1904 and 1908 the individual companies merged to form the Fire Department. The six original fire house locations were retained but it was decided to form four districts. At this time all equipment was either hand or horse drawn to the fire.
Shortly after the department hired its first paid firefighters in 1949, Santa Clara Firefighters organized into a union in 1954. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) had been established since February 28, 1918, for the sole benefit of rank-and-file firefighters in the United States and Canada.
When the Union petitioned in 1954 we received the affiliate (Local) number of 1171. The founding members of IAFF Local 1171 were Frank Toledo, Victor Gonzalez, Raymond DeFelice, Dean Grimes, Jack Finger, Manuel Rogers, John Andrade, Alexander Fanelli, George Coop, Emil Flosi, Atanacio Ledesma, Phillip Morales, John Perez and Jess Rogers.
The first few decades following organization, the City of Santa Clara saw an expansive growth from a small agricultural town to what is now the home of Silicon Valley. The Department went from one station in 1947, to 7 stations in 1967, and finally 10 stations in 1986.
With the continued growth, also came new hazards. Santa Clara became the home of industry. Small plating shops to high technology manufacturing companies were moving into Santa Clara. This would be the start of Silicon Valley. The department and its firefighters would have to adapt with the city.
Along with the new hazards came the necessity for new training and equipment. Industry was using large amounts of hazardous chemicals and firefighters were exposing themselves to dangers like they’ve never seen before. The union was instrumental in safe working conditions through the large expansion. The union worked collaboratively with the department to ensure our firefighters had the most up to date training, personal protective equipment (PPE) and apparatus. Our Union was instrumental is ensuring industry best practices in compliance with NFPA and OSHA standards for worker safety.
Over the years, our firefighters have adapted to the changing environment in order to serve its community. Santa Clara became the first in the nation to establish a Hazardous Materials program and a Fire Prevention program. In fact, it was one of our Fire Marshals that gave the idea for the annual clean-up campaign to help mitigate the fire load across the city.
Time and time again, our members answer the call for help. Over the years, our firefightershave respondedto some of the largest incidents throughout the United States such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Every year, we respond to mutual aid wildfires in the State of California. These have included the Tunnel fire in the Oakland Hills, the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa, the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara, the Cedar fire in San Diego, the Camp fire in Paradise and so many more. Locally, we have protected our community from fires such as the Santana Row fire, Moreland Way fire in Rivermark and Mayfair Packing Company fire.
It was after one of these most tragic fires in Santa Clara, the Malarin fire in 2002, that we started the Santa Clara Firefighters Foundation as a 501(3)C. While we were always active in our community, we did not have a formal way of accepting donations, fundraising and then giving back to our community. The Foundation principles of charity, community and compassion live within every one of us and through our programs. Over the years, our foundations have contributed over a $100,000 to our community and thousands of hours of mentorship, community engagement and volunteerism.
As we head into the future, the members of the Santa Clara Firefighter Local 1171 are ready to answer the call. Whether that’s on an engine or truck, or in a classroom or community event. Our members whether on or off duty, are ready to lend a helping hand. IAFF Local 1171 is here to help accomplish those goals and protect the men and women of our fire department so they can protect you.