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History Of The Stockton Fire Department

1850-1908

 

 

 

A rose to the living is more

Than sumptuous wreaths to the dead;

In filling love's infinite store

A rose to the living is more

It graciously given before

The hungering spirit is fled;

A rose to the living is more

Than sumptuous wreaths to the dead.

- NIXON WATERMAN

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

"Twas but yesterday one doubted men had courage still, and flouted

At unselfishness, that vague, unmeaning word;

Then there came a sound like thunder, and the doubter saw his blunder;

'Twas the passing of the Engines that we heard!

 

For they broke upon our quiet with a mad and reckless riot,

And they shattered all the silence into sound.

How the engines hissed and spattered, how the flying horses clattered,

As their iron hoofs sped by us with a bound!

 

With knightly bearing, onto smoke and battle faring,

Seemed like heroes of an age of war and strife,

For they boldly courted danger, aiding foe and friend and stranger,

With the courage that outweighs the love of life.

 

Facing flame and falling ember, not one man paused to remember

Home and wife and little children left behind.

Rushing on through smoke and cinder, nor one selfish fear could hinder.

Or drive duty from the throne room of his mind.

 

There was someone yonder calling, and the mighty beams were falling,

And the smoke was like a raging devils breath;

Still without one moments waiting or seconds hesitating,

On they leaped, and wrenched a human life from death.

 

From The Modern Hero by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 

 

 

                   WHILE it is impossible to treat the subject of The Fireman without the appearance of a resort to sentimentalism, it is but proper that in presenting this volume to the public a word should be said of the brave men who protect our property from devastation and ruin who are in readiness at every hour of the day and night to sacrifice, if necessary, their lives in the faithful performance of their duties.

                   To the casual observer the firemen is but an idle-seeming fellow, and true appreciation is given him only when the ear catches the startling clang of the gong or the eye is arrested by tall columns of smoke sweeping skyward from a burning building; then do we remember, when instinctively we look about us for protection from the most dangerous and destructive of all the elements, that he is ALWAYS ON DUTY; that when the sun rides the radiant sky at midday, and at night when rain and tempest sweep the streets, the "fire laddie" is awaiting the call that summons him to duty which statistics prove is perilous in the extreme. That often when the wind is weirdly shrieking round the gables beneath which the citizen is wrapped in peaceful slumber, the fireman is called hurriedly from his bed, and in the twinkling of an eye is dashing through the deserted highways to save life and property from the unbidden destroyer.

                 The American soldier on land and sea, the pride of our nation, the envy of the civilized world, with much more to impel them to deeds, perform acts of no greater bravery and daring than the fireman. Passion, temper, hatred or rancor toward an enemy in battle impel oft times the soldier to deeds of reckless daring that emblazons his name upon the pages of our country's history. No such incentives actuate the firemen; he must be cool-headed, calculating, and careful. His mission is to save - not to destroy; he is not actuated by hatred or spurred on by passion such as excites the soldier when in battle comrades fall. There is no selfishness, no sordid consideration as to how much he will make or lose in his efforts to save the life and property of his fellowman. From the moment when the tap of the gong starts him to where danger threatens, the consideration of life is held in abeyance to the dictates of duty and devotion to imperiled humanity.

                   Deeds of daring by men in this branch of the public service are of such frequent occurrence that they are as "names writ in water," and though of equal heroism with those who fight our country's battles, the fame of the fireman, be he ever so brave, is, at best, but short-lived and purely local; in the gallery of the world's heroes there is no niche set apart for the "fire laddie" and his duty is performed without hope of ever hearing his praises sung by the multitudes.

                   Our lives and our property are in his keeping by day and by night; while he is seemingly idling away the hours he is but waiting for the clang of the gong that requires him without a moment's hesitation to take his life anew in his hands and hasten to where danger threatens. To the "blue-shirted" firemen we owe much and our measure of thanks cannot be too full.

 

Allen M. Robinette

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