|THE HISTORY OF THE MENLO PARK FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION
Little is known about firefighting or the firefighters that provided the service to Menlo Park and surrounding areas prior to 1915. No formal organization had existed, and if records were kept by the volunteers, they have long since disappeared. However, two items still exist, which date back to the period of time between 1900 and 1915. One is a brass bell manufactured in May of 1900 by W.T. Garrot and Company of San Francisco. The bell was donated in 1900 to the community by Chris F. Smith. The other is a hose wagon manufactured by the Larkin Company of San Francisco. Its date of manufacture is unknown, but it was in service when the Fire District was formed. Presently both the bell and the wagon reside at Menlo Park Fire Protection District Headquarters located at 300 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park.
On September 16th, 1915 a letter of intent to form a Fire District was summated to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors signed by sixty-two Menlo Park and Atherton Taxpayers. On January 3rd, 1916, a petition requesting the formation of the Menlo Park Fire District was presented to the Board of Supervisors by Phillip Wales. On June 16th, 1916, at 11:24am the Menlo Park Fire Protection District was formed. The vote passed with 100 in favor and 58 against. The original area we protected was 12 square miles, which was later increased to 17 square miles when the District annexed East Palo Alto and has gradually grown to what is today at 30 square miles.
The first meeting of the Volunteer Firemen was held on April 11th, 1917. This meeting only had 11 out of 18 volunteer members in attendance. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District was lead by Volunteer Fire Chief Frank P. Roach who served and protected a population of approximately 1000 citizens. The first 11 known Firemen, on record, with the Menlo Park Fire District were: Frank P. Roach, Harry B. Morey Jr., John J. Tuttle, William T. Casey, John Marcy, Donald Derry, James Brurke, Charles M. Weeden Jr., Arthur Midgley, Percy Ellings, and John N. Hallsan. These volunteers were paid for meetings and trainings.
The first fully paid fireman was Leslie Brown, he was hired in 1918 and our first paid Fire Chief was Fred Whitaker. Fred Whitaker was a retired San Francisco Fire Captain. Chief Whitaker was our Chief until 1932 when he was replaced by Fire Chief Thomas F. Cuff, who was a former Berkeley Fire Captain. Our earliest records show Thomas F. Cuff was the first recognized President of the Menlo Park Firemens’ Association in 1932 and it is in his honor that we named our Association’s Antique Fire Engine , a 1935 Seagrave, “Old Tom”. Our Association went on for six years before it was officially Incorporated, under President Charles Dompe, as the “Menlo Park Firemens’ Association” on December 17th, 1938.
During World War II the Fire District was staffed by a total of 12 full time firefighters, one part time Secretary-Clerk and volunteers. In late 1945, after the end of World War II, the volunteer force was disbanded and the District became a fully paid, a Professional Fire Department.
In 1973 the Menlo Park Firemens’ Association Inc. became affiliated with the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) as IAFF Local 2372. We kept our own Local until there was a push to join a consolidated San Mateo County IAFF Local, Local 2400. In 1976 our Association gave up our individual Local Affiliation, IAFF Local 2372, to join the consolidated Local. This Local was identified as San Mateo County Firefighters, Local 2400.
Shortly thereafter the Executive Board of Local 2400 had a General Membership meeting to vote on a dues increase. The Menlo Park Firefighters were opposed to the increase and nearly every off duty member, approximately 60 firefighters, were in attendance to vote the increase down. The resolution failed but at the next meeting the dues increase was brought back up under old business and without our membership present the resolution was passed.
Immediately following the dues increase, every active member of our Association dropped out of the Local 2400 with the exception of our Association’s designated Labor Representatives. Our Labor Reps stayed in due to the existing contract that identified Local 2400 as the Labor Force to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. Our affiliation with the IAFF and San Mateo County Firefighters Local 2400, ended in 1977 when the contract expired and by mutual consent Menlo Park Firefighters were no longer affiliated with the Local 2400.
The Menlo Park Firemens’ Association went on without any significant changes for nearly a decade. On October 30th, 1989, “Menlo Park Firemens’ Association Inc.” officially and legally changed our name to “the Menlo Park Firefighters’ Association Inc.” via a vote of the General Membership.
In 1992 our Fire District hired a new Fire Chief, Rick Tye. Rick Tye was our Chief until 1997 and during his tenure he made some fairly progressive changes to our Fire District. However, like all things with the good comes the bad and when Rick Tye placed a bid in to provide services for the federally funded Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) it concerned the Palo Alto Fire Department and its Firefighters. If the Federal Government would have accepted his bid, it would have had an adverse effect on the funding for the Palo Alto Fire Department as well as the security of the Palo Alto Firefighters, Local 1319.
The situation was exacerbated when Rick Tye and the Fire District placed a bid to provide Fire Protection Services to San Mateo County Service Area 8. This was an area of unincorporated San Mateo County which Redwood City had been under contract to provide services to for decades. The bid was not accepted by the County. However, because the District’s bid for services that was lower than Redwood City’s, it had an adverse effect on the Redwood City Fire Department and its Local 2400 Members. When the County awarded the contract with Redwood City, it awarded it with the Fire Districts proposed rate.
These issues all came to a head in 1996 when the Local 2400 and Local 1319 made a proposal to the IAFF while at Convention. San Mateo County and Palo Alto Firefighters proposed Union Sanctions against the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and its employees stating that we were a “Hostile Organization”. The proposal passed and it was a dark day for the Menlo Park Fire Fighters’ Association.
In 1998 the Menlo Park Firefighters Association attempted to affiliate itself with the IAFF once again. Our Association attempted to revive our original Local, Local 2372 but were denied by the International. The following year, in 1999, the “Menlo Park Firefighters Association Inc.” once again affiliated itself with the IAFF and San Mateo County Firefighters, Local 2400 with a vote of the membership. With that renewed affiliation, we became Menlo Park Firefighters Association Inc., District 10 of IAFF Local 2400. Our Association is proud of that affiliation.
Today our Association is made up of roughly 90 Active Members and 5 Associate Members. We have two other categories of Members which are Retired and Honorary. Active Members of our Association include members holding the Rank of Captain and below and Associate Members hold the Rank of Battalion Chief and above within the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
Whether you are Active, Honorary, Retired or Associate all members of the Menlo Park Firefighters’ Association know what our Mission is. The Menlo Park Firefighters’ Association exists to protect, improve, and preserve the lives of both the Citizens of the District and the Members of the Firefighter Association