Lompoc, like most communities in early California in 1875, was built almost entirely of wood. Very early in the settlement of Lompoc, it was evident some sort of organization was needed to cope with the threat of unfriendly fires in the community. In those early days fire conflagrations often destroyed entire communities. According to Lompoc Record archives, the first organized fire protection in the Lompoc colony was formed on August 31, 1875. This first "Fire Company or Hook and Ladder Company" was an all volunteer fire brigade organized 13 years before Lompoc became a city. Early records indicate H. R. Fabing was elected foreman of the Fire Company making him Lompoc's first unofficial Fire Chief. Firefighting technology back then consisted of a fire bell to alert the volunteers and the use of buckets to extinguish a fire. In 1893, a new and larger fire bell was purchased from the W.T. Garratt & Company. Today that same bell is permanently mounted in a place of distinction at Fire Station One. On August 13, 1888, Lompoc was incorporated and became a city. Later that year, on October 4th, the Board of Trustees of the Town of Lompoc approved Ordinance No. 16, defining the "Fire Limits of the Town of Lompoc to Protect Life and Property from Fire and Fixing the Penalty for Non-Observance Thereof." Because the original Fire Company was a private organization, the town marshal was entrusted to enforce the ordinance. Like most volunteer organizations, the private Fire Company experienced years of great support from the community paralleled by years of inactivity by its members.
The Fire Company actually went through three periods of reorganization. It seemed that whenever the community experienced a large fire and loss of property, the local newspaper noted the Fire Company's short comings, calling for its reorganization.
In 1891 money was subscribed for the building of a combined City Hall and Fire Department. The bottom half served as the Fire Department and the upper floor utilized as a combination City Hall/meeting hall. The two-story brick building, located at 115 South G Street (shown on bottom of page one), served as Fire Station One and Administrative Headquarters until 1978. In 1978, the fire station was rebuilt on its original site and should continue to serve Lompoc residents well into the new millennium. On May 12, 1916, the residence of A. L. Jacobs was destroyed by fire. Once again the Lompoc Record noted the Fire Company's inability to extinguish the fire.
It was apparent to many at the "Jacob's Fire" that the volunteers were ill prepared and in need of training on the use of their equipment. Editorial blasts by Ronald Adam in the Lompoc Record undoubtedly were responsible for establishing a City Fire Department. On June 2, 1916, Charles Everett was elected as Chief Engineer or Fire Chief of the Volunteer Fire Department for the City of Lompoc. Chief Everett served as Lompoc's first Fire Chief from 1916 until 1950 when a heart condition made his retirement necessary. Special tribute should be given to Chief Everett for his 34 years of dedicated service. More importantly, the professionalism, quality of service, and community involvement provided by today's Firefighters is a credit to the hard work and dedication of Charles Everett. In honor of Chief Everett, a special mural was commissioned to local artists Pat and Robert Saul. The mural is taken from a family photograph taken in 1923 of Charles Everett and his three-year-old son Ed in front of the Fire House on a 1922 Seagrave Fire Engine.
The mural, shown below, was dedicated to the Fire Department on June 25, 1994, and is permanently located at Fire Station One.
Since the "Chief Everett Era," the following nine Fire Chiefs have headed the Lompoc Fire Department:
- Victor L. Mohr succeeded Charles Everett as Fire Chief and served in that capacity from 1950 to 1953. Chief Mohr went on to serve as Fire Chief for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
- Forrest Pollard was Fire Chief from 1953 to 1961.
- Fire Chief John Baker, 1961 - 1970, was a Fire Captain with the City of Downy prior to becoming Lompoc's Chief. Chief Baker left Lompoc to become Fire Chief for the City of Vallejo.
- Fire Chief Don Johnson, 1971 - 1972, was Fire Chief of the City of Tracy before coming to Lompoc and left to become Fire Chief for the City of Mesa, Arizona.
- Fire Chief Doug Spickard, 1973 - 1976, was a Division Chief with the City of Huntington Beach and left to become Fire Chief for the City of Garden Grove.
- Fire Chief John Mulligan, 1976 - 1978, had actually worked as a Firefighter for Lompoc, left to become a Fire Marshal for the City of Rancho Cucamonga. Five years later, John returned to serve as Fire Chief, leaving to become Fire Chief for Fort Collins, Colorado.
- Fire Chief Michael Ellison, 1978 - 1985, was a Battalion Chief with the City of Rialto and retired from the fire service upon leaving Lompoc.
- Fire Chief Ron Reid, 1986 - 1993, started as a Firefighter with Santa Barbara County Fire Department and transferred to Lompoc shortly after. Chief Reid promoted through the ranks and served as Acting Fire Chief on two separate occasions before becoming the Department's first in-house Fire Chief since Charles Everett. Ron Reid retired from the Lompoc Fire Department with 33 years of service.
- Fire Chief Ed Casarez, 1994 - 2002, was appointed to Fire Chief in 1994 from within the Department's ranks. Chief Casarez achieved three personal milestones as a Lompoc Firefighter. Ed was the first Hispanic Firefighter and Fire Chief hired by the City. More important, having grown up in Lompoc, Ed is honored to join Fire Chief Charles Everett to become the second Lompocan to become Fire Chief.
- Fire Chief Linual A. White Jr, 2002 – 2010, is second generation fire service, who spent 25 years serving the community of El Centro, California before accepting the appointment as Lompoc Fire Chief on July 28, 2002.
- Fire Chief Jeffrey R. States, 2010 – 2012, was appointed to Fire Chief in 2010 from within the Department’s ranks. Chief States retired from the Lompoc Fire Department with 26 years of service.
- Fire Chief Kurt Latipow, 2012 - 2017
At present, the Lompoc Fire Department has an ISO rating of a Class 4 Department staffed by 25 uniformed personnel responding out of two fire stations. Fire Station One, located on its original site, serves as Fire Department Administrative Headquarters and accommodates four chief officers, a secretary, and four fire suppression personnel on each 24-hour shift. Housed at Station One is a 75-foot ladder truck purchased in 1994, and a 1500 G.P.M. triple combination pumper delivered in 2001, a 1991 West Mark Brush Truck (Type III), purchased in 2006 from surplus, a Medium typed Urban Search and Rescue trailer purchased in 2006, and a fully equipped Mass Casualty Incident trailer purchased in 2005. Fire Station Two, located at 1100 North D Street, was built in 1985 due to a surge of residential and commercial growth at the City's northern boundaries. Three fire suppression personnel are assigned to each 24-hour shift at Station Two, which also houses two 1500 G.P.M. triple combination pumpers purchased in 1999 and 2008.
A far cry from a bucket brigade approach to extinguishing fires in 1875, today's Fire Department provides an effective full service and all-risk level of service to the community. The Department's organizational structure, the fire apparatus and equipment, and especially its diverse programs provide a level of service that fulfills an important need to the community. The term fire protection has evolved to include many new meanings ranging from fire suppression, first responder emergency medical care, to managing the storage and handling of hazardous materials. Ordinance No.16, which defined the "Fire Limits of the Town of Lompoc to Protect Life and Property from Fire" was once enforced by the town marshal, now requires a Fire Marshal to administer the development and enforcement of current fire ordinances.
Fire losses from the 1800's to early 1900's were limited to residential fires with an occasional fire in a small business. In most cases back then buildings burnt to the ground. Two of the more spectacular fires on record occurred in the 1950's. The "Packing Shed Fire" destroyed nearly a city block of produce packing sheds at 1300 West Laurel Avenue. The lone surviving building from that fire still stands and is occupied by a local business. Cause of the "Packing Shed Fire" was never determined. The second fire involved the La Mesa Theater which was located at the corner of Ocean Avenue and J Street. According to the Lompoc Record, fire personnel were at a fire east of town when alerted of the theater fire. On their arrival, Firefighters encountered a building fully involved in fire. Fire in this grand old theater resulted in its total loss. The most tragic fire to strike the community occurred in 1966, just two days before Christmas when three small children, one an infant, lost their lives in a trailer fire. The fire was caused by the children playing with matches and igniting the family Christmas tree. Sadly, the children had been left alone for just a moment by their mother when the fire broke out.
By 1960, the Fire Department had enough full-time Firefighters to staff two engine companies 24 hours a day year round. The improved fire staffing allowed the Department to establish emergency response time standards and rethink its fire fighting tactics. The response standard of five minutes for emergencies established in 1960, was clearly ahead of its time and continues to be the accepted standard. As for fire fighting tactics, the Department has over the years perfected an aggressive interior fire attack resulting in quick extinguishment. These two changes had an almost immediate impact resulting in a dramatic reduction of fire losses in the City.