By Harold Schapelhouman, chief, Menlo Park Fire Protection District
On June 27, 2016, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District began the official journey into its 100th anniversary. On this date back in 1916, 100 residents voted in favor, and 58 against, to establish a "Fire Company" in Menlo Park.
A petition was submitted to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to establish a town fire department for purposes of "better fire protection." Prior to that, a small group of volunteers used a single hose wagon, with borrowed horse teams, pulled to fires after ringing a bell in the small fire station to notify residents and volunteers of a fire in the community.
From its humble beginnings in 1916, the fire district has grown from 1,000 residents to a daytime population of over 100,000 residents and local employees, some of whom travel great distances to work at Facebook, SRI International, the U.S. Geological Survey, venture capital firms, life science companies, start-ups and hundreds of other large and smaller business that support the community and a high-tech and information revolution.
From the quiet streets of yesteryear, when a small group of 17 volunteer firefighters responded with a horse-drawn hose wagon and minimal equipment, today's fire district is made up of seven strategically located fire stations, nine front-line pieces of apparatus and over 117 dedicated and well-trained personnel in suppression, prevention, paramedic service, code enforcement, public education, support services, urban search and rescue, and administration.
From an original property valuation of $3.5 million and a budget of $7,500 in 1916, the fire district has grown to an assessed valuation of $28.5 billion with a projected budget of $43 million in fiscal year 2016/17 and a recently re-established bond rating of AA++.
In 2015, the fire district responded to 8,547 emergency incidents in an area of 29 square miles of which four square miles is Bay marshland, eight square miles is open Bay water, and 16.6 square miles is land that encompasses the town of Atherton, the cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and portions of unincorporated San Mateo County such as North Fair Oaks, Sequoia Tract, West Menlo Park, Menlo Oaks and Stanford Weekend Acres.
In addition, the district has a fire and emergency services agreement to protect the roughly 1 square mile area of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory campus and contracts to provide specialized rescue services with the state and federal government.