The Suisun City Fire Department started as a fire brigade staffed by Union Army soldiers after the town was founded. The town at that time was little more than an army outpost. The all-volunteer Suisun City Fire Department was formed on April 27, 1861 and was made up of the town business leaders and residents.
The first hand pump was purchased from San Francisco. This hand pumper was a 1857 Hunniman design that was made by an apprentice to Paul Revere. In those days, fire units were often named after the company foreman who ran the crew. Our Hunniman is named the S. R. Spinney. The hand pumper was transported by sailing ship around the Horn and delivered to the San Francisco Fire Department. This pumper is a very heavy, hand-drawn unit. The San Francisco Fire Department sold the S.R Spinney to Suisun City after it had run away with its crew on one of San Francisco’s signature hills and crushed two men when it ran into a brick wall. It is rumored the funds for this pumper was collected by the local marshal by fining visitors at the local brothels.
In 1868, the first of the City’s 11 major fires burned down the Mehan’s Boat Shop. In 1883, the McDonald & Company livery stable burned. In 1888, the first large loss fire occurred when a 2-year-old boy playing with matches started a fire that eventually burned 45 businesses, 28 homes, 8 bars and the fire house. This fire was the first time that Suisun City saw mutual aid when the Benicia and Vallejo fire departments sent crews and engines by rail to help fight the fire.
By 1906, the city was rebuilt and larger than ever when another major fire at the Armsby Company Packing House burned down six residential blocks. Once again, the Benicia and Vallejo fire departments responded by rail to fight the fire. The Fire Department purchased what appears to have been a demonstration model of one of the first hand-drawn motorized pumpers made by the Waterous Pump Company. Once again, the ladies of the evening provided the majority of the funds for this purchase. This pumper is pulled by people but has a four-cylinder gasoline internal combustion engine to power the pump. This unit was saved and restored under the direction of Chief Jim Pennington. To honor his dedication to the restoration project, we have named this antique engine the 2. W. Pennington.
In 1928, the Department purchased its first motorized fire engine, which was made by American LaFrance. It was manufactured on a General Motors commercial chassis with a six-cylinder Buick engine. The engine is now being restored by members of the department.
The next two decades were free of major fires until the Mayfield Hotel burned down in 1955. In 1958, the Arlington Hotel burned to the ground, and, in 1959, the Reymon Lumber Yard was burned for the first time. It is thought that this was one of the first cases of arson for profit in Suisun City. In 1963, the Lashman Lumber Yard burned, and, in 1963, the Reymon Lumber Yard was again consumed by fire.
Sunset Avenue opened in 1977, and the town of Suisun City started to grow from a population of about 2,300 people. The first paid Fire Chief – Jim Pennington – was hired in August 1978; he was hired as the City’s first paid firefighter in 1972. That same year, four houses in the Dover Terrace area and Elmo’s, an old time bar and bait shop, burned.
In 1996, the Watson Auto Body Shop on Main Street caught fire, drawing engines and crews from six different departments.
Suisun City now has a population of over 29,000 people. The department has career Fire Chief, one Deputy Chief, one Division Chief, a Fire Marshal, six paid Fire Captains, six Engineers, and an average of 15 Reserve Volunteer Firefighters. The increased level of staffing allows the department to staff two engines each shift.