Fresno Fire Station No. 3 has turned 75. Judging by looks, the city's oldest fire house could have another 75 years in it.
The two-story station on the southeast corner of Fresno and E streets near downtown was dedicated on May 6, 1939. But the first day of full staffing wasn't until May 7.
Fire Department officials on Wednesday didn't make a big deal of the 75th anniversary of the station's opening. For one thing, they didn't have time. Station No. 3 is the city's busiest, with some 4,000 calls for service per year.
But the city's firefighters are proud of the facility.
"Station 3 is part of our department's DNA," Chief Kerri Donis said. "There has been a fire station at that corner of Fresno since our department began in 1877. It serves as a great reminder of our department's courageous history and rich tradition."
Added department spokesman Koby Johns: "It's a great building. It's one of those things Fresno did right."
Construction on the site's current station began in August 1938. The cost was $85,000. The city came up with $46,750 and the federal Public Works Administration funded the rest.
The Bee reported on May 7, 1939 that the previous day's dedication ceremony drew an estimated 250 fire chiefs from throughout the state.
"Declared to incorporate some of the newest innovations in fire department headquarters, the new plant includes a new fire house, drill yard, shop buildings and storage facilities," The Bee reported.
There was a photo of fireman Louis Devecchio at work in the kitchen. Another photo had fireman Peter Masoian shaving in the bathroom.
After listing the station's operational advances, The Bee noted: "Still present, because, as Chief W.R. Williams explains, nothing better has been invented, are the proverbial brass poles down which firemen will slide from living quarters above."
A tour conducted by Johns shows a station that in key ways has kept pace with the times. Typewriters for daily reports are gone, replaced by computers. The kitchen has a modern oven/range. The gym features the latest exercise equipment.
The firefighters of 1939 would be stunned by the fire engine that now responds to calls for help.
But much of Station 3 remains unchanged. The on-duty captain still has private quarters next to the station office. The kitchen table is still graced by a "chow journal" where firefighters keep track of purchases. The bathroom's sinks and tile floors are original.
The station's back lot is a training center and maintenance yard.
Firefighting crews these days have females as well as males. Station 3's four-person crew works 48 straight hours. Johns said privacy in a Depression-era building functions on common sense. There are sleeping quarters on the ground floor to complement the second-story dormitory. An "occupied" sign on the bathroom's closed door says it all.
Best of all, the brass pole remains pivotal. Actually there are four: next to the captain's quarters, the exercise room, the dormitory and between the bathroom and locker room.
An alarm sounded during Johns' tour. In a heartbeat, two firefighters doing paperwork in the office had dropped everything and were sliding down the nearest pole.
"This building isn't going anywhere," Johns said. "It works really well."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or email@example.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.